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Living Off Campus

Moving into your first apartment is exciting, but it also requires some planning, financial and otherwise. Review Common Expenses for helpful information when planning your budget.

Finding an apartment

There are a number of things to keep in mind as you evaluate potential apartments, like condition of the property, security, and location. The Office of Off-Campus Life provides a very helpful Property Checklist, which you can take with you and use as a guide of things to examine in properties you visit. You can also use this pre-move-in; list any pre-existing issues or damages, and sign off on it with your landlord.

Make a list of what features you desire most from your apartment, then prioritize them based on importance. This will help you when looking at apartments and comparing your various options. Some concessions will be made, so deciding on the "deal breakers" now will save you time later.

Make sure you ask your landlord important questions like, “How do I submit my rent payment?” and “How do I report maintenance issues/requests?”


You may not think of choosing your roommate(s) as a financial decision, but in a way, it is: When you sign your lease, you are individually and collectively responsible for complying with the terms of the lease, and failure to do so can impact all of you. Make sure to choose your roommates carefully!

  • You may also want do devise a “roommate agreement” to get some dos and don'ts out in the open BEFORE you move in together. We all know what our hot buttons and pet peeves are, so make sure to get those out in the open from the beginning.
  • How will the space and personal items be shared?
  • Who will sign up for which utilities?
  • How will you submit rent payments?
  • How will you divide other shared expenses, like cleaning supplies and toilet paper?
  • Lay out some ground rules for things like entertaining, significant others and overnight guests, and sharing (or not sharing) groceries.

Choose a roommate who has similar or complementary living style to your own (for example: privacy, allergies, cleanliness, entertaining, significant others, etc.). You might even find that your best friend isn't your ideal roommate if s/he is financially disorganized, or if your lifestyles and habits don't jive.

Your lease

A lease is your legal agreement between you and your landlord. It outlines the commitments to which you are both agreeing. Unless you have a “month-to-month” lease, it will also outline a specific timeframe to which the contract applies, commonly a 12-month period. You are responsible to pay rent during that timeframe. It is vital that you understand of all the terms and conditions of this agreement. You can review a sample lease provided by the Office of Off-Campus Life for an idea of what to expect and what you should look for in a lease.

It is important that all tenants’ names are listed on your lease, or that each of you has a separate lease with roughly equal responsibility. Having only one person’s name on the lease puts that person on the hook financially for the whole apartment; relying on some sort of verbal agreement outside of the lease is dangerous and may lead to serious problems later. Get everything in writing.

Look for certain items in your lease that you know are important to you. What are the penalties and obligations if you need to end your lease early – can you end your lease early? Are you permitted to sublet? You cannot sublet your apartment unless you have explicit permission from your landlord; if this ability is important to you, make sure it is added to your lease.

Make sure your lease also lists the exact amount that is charged for late rent payments. There is no maximum amount in Illinois for a late payment fee, so make sure this is written on your lease.

Financial aid considerations

If you are a financial aid recipient, your aid will not change if you decide to move out of the dorms and into an off-campus apartment. Visit the Undergraduate Financial Aid website for details.