What to ask in an off campus housing search

Moving off campus can be an exciting but intimidating process. Knowing where to look, gathering roommates, and understanding leases can be overwhelming. But don’t worry; we are here to help. Here are some tips and pieces of advice to implement while you are searching for off campus housing. 

What type of lease is it?

In Oxford there are typically two types of leases:  joint leases and individual leases. Joint leases hold everyone on the lease accountable for the total amount of charges, even if one tenant moves out or doesn’t pay. Individual leases are the opposite. You are only responsible for your agreed upon portion of the rent, no matter if your roommate situation changes. Most houses in Oxford go by the joint lease method and apartments tend to have more individual lease options. It is really important to ask the property manager what type of lease you will be signing so you can have the discussion with your roommates and be financially prepared. 

Does it come furnished?

While it might seem exciting to be able to decorate your own space, it can also get really expensive. Ask the property manager during a tour if the space comes furnished or partially furnished. Some places provide things like barstools, appliances, and couches and others require you to have your own furniture. Make sure that you know what will be there when you move in so that you can buy appropriately. 

Do they offer summer storage or early move in?

For students moving out of the residence halls and preparing to move off campus, having a storage or early move in option could save you and your family a lot of hassle. Ask your landlord if the house or apartment offers summer storage or early move in and if there are  any fees associated. If you can move your belongings straight from your residence hall to your off campus housing, you won’t have to worry about renting a storage unit or moving things twice within a few months. 

What is the parking situation?

If you’ll have a car at your new residence, be sure to ask about the parking situation. Some places in Oxford have enough off street parking for all roommates, whereas others have only two off street parking spots and the rest have to be permitted through the city. Talk with your roommates about who will have a car. If none of your roommates want to parallel park, you should look for a place with more off-street parking. Additionally, the city of Oxford charges a fee for permitted parking outside some residences, so make sure you know how much those fees cost and make sure you or your roommates are ok with paying them. 

What utilities are you responsible for?

This is one of the most important things to make sure you fully understand before you sign your lease and something that many people don’t think about. There is a big variation among landlords in regards to what utilities tenants are responsible for. Additionally, many properties will require you to have set up and started paying for utilities prior to moving in and provide proof that they have been established. Make sure you know what utilities you have to have set up and pay for before signing your lease. 

Additionally, some companies require that utilities be set up under one person’s name, not multiple roommates. Talk with your roommates about who you want the designated person to be who will pay the bills and then all agree to pay that person back your portion of the bill ASAP. Additionally, do some research about the different plans and companies who provide utility services to the Oxford area and make sure you are getting what you want for a good price.

Is the rental approved through the City of Oxford? 

The City of Oxford has a process to make sure all rental properties have the proper permit. It’s a good idea to ask the property manager – or just check the City of Oxford website yourself. The site also includes floor plans, certificates and projects of approved rentals.

Other things that are good to ask about during a housing tour or lease signing are:

  • How are damages or maintenance handled? 
  • Is there a professional cleaning between tenants? 
  • Are pets allowed and is there a fee associated with having a pet? 

As you can see there are so many moving parts to keep in mind while trying to find off campus housing, but just remember these tips and trust your gut and you will find a great place to spend your future years at Miami. You can also visit the Lease Signing page on our Off-Campus Outreach site for more specific information about leases, common addendums, and other tips.

Grace Cooper