A College Student’s Guide to Finding Off-Campus Housing Near the University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida is continuously growing. As a result finding off campus housing can be challenging for students. This guide is designed to not only help you through the process, but will help you learn how to become a savvy renter.

When you start looking for off-campus student housing it’s a great idea to begin your search by asking yourself two simple questions. First, are you looking to rent an apartment or are you looking for a house? Second, are you looking for a place to live for yourself or do you have roommates already?

These questions may seem silly, but looking for a place to rent around a busy college campus can be very time consuming. As a result, focus is important. Focusing on a specific objective may dramatically reduce the time and effort needed for you to find a nice place to live.

Before you start the process please remember this; there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you don’t understand something related to the process or the terminology, ask for help. You will be much happier in the end if you clearly understand what it is you are doing.

I hope the lists below will help guide you through the process. As a former UCF student, I know what you are going through. The list contains questions you should ask, tips on what to look for when visiting properties you are considering renting and what to look for in leasing agreements.

As alway, if you need help finding or renting an apartment or house while you are attending UCF or any other school in the Orlando area. Contact me.

Important Considerations Regarding Rent

  • How much is the monthly rent?
  • If I pay the rent late, will I be charged a late fee?
  • How much is the late fee?
  • Are any utilities included within the monthly rent?
    • Water
    • Sewer
    • Electricity
    • Gas
    • Trash collection
    • Cable television
    • Internet
    • Pest control
  • If not included in the monthly rent, what’s the typical monthly cost of each of the following utilities?
    • Water
    • Sewer
    • Electricity
    • Gas
    • Trash collection
    • Cable television
    • Internet
    • Pest control
Pet Questions
  • Are pets allowed?
  • If so, is there a size or breed restriction?
  • Is there an additional fee for my pet?
  • Is the fee the same for both dogs and cats?  
Parking
  • Is there ample parking available?
  • Is there an additional cost for parking?

 

Washing Machine / Dryer
  • Is there a washer and/or dryer in the unit?
  • If not in the unit, where are the washing machines located?
  • Are machines shared by people in the building?
  • Is there a cost to use the machines?

When You Visit a Property: Check These Items

Lighting

  • Are there windows that provide natural light?
  • Are there built in lighting fixtures?
  • Is there outside lighting?

Locks

  • Do they work properly?
  • Would you feel safe being alone at night?
  • Are there locks on the windows and/or sliding glass doors?

Window quality

  • Are they old or drafty?
  • Is there mold on the windowsill? This may indicate poor insulation which may affect the temperature inside.

Faucets and Sinks

  • Are they leaky or rusty?
  • Is there signs of water damage around the area?

Toilets

  • Are they functioning properly?

Shower water pressure

  • Never underestimate great water pressure in the shower!

Tile and grout

  • Is the bathroom tile and grout well-kept or scummy?

Walls for marks, holes, scratches, patches, etc.

  • Keep note if the walls are well taken care of because it reflects on the landlord.

Closet sizes

  • Can you live with the size of the closet?

Pantry and cupboard sizes

  • Do you have enough storage space?
  • Are there signs of bugs?

Carpeting/Floors

  • Is the carpeting/flooring clean?

Appliances

  • Are the appliances new and/or up to date?
  • Is the stove gas or electric?

Front landscape and Entryway

  • Are they well-maintained?

Outlets

  • Check the location and number of outlets, noting both. Also, check to see if the outlets work!

Air Conditioning/Heat

  • Do the systems work properly?
  • Where are the air conditioner filters? Check to see if they are clean.

Neighbors

  • Do the neighbors seem friendly, courteous, trustworthy?

Landlord

  • What are your initial impressions of the landlord?
  • Does he or she seem trustworthy?
  • What about his or her relationship with the neighbors – does it seem positive?
  • Are there any online reviews about the complex and/or landlord?

Do Your Own Research

Safety of the Location

  • Find out the crime statistics in the area by contacting the local police department. They’ll be able to give you information on the area and recommend whether or not they feel it’s safe for students.
  • Drive around the neighborhood.

Convenience

  • What’s the proximity to the nearest grocery store?
  • What about the nearest coffee shop?
  • Consider what you’d like to be nearby and then map out if the places are located within the area. It may help you decide if the location is right for you.

Campus

  • Can you get to classes, the library and other campus locations quickly and easily when you need to?

Reasonable Rent Rates in the Area

  • Research what typical rent rates within the area are. You can research this by asking around locally, researching online at either apartment websites or rent comparison websites or by calling a local realtor.

 

Security Deposits and Leasing Fees – Make Sure You Understand What They Are

  • Ask the question; are there additional fees for any of the following?
    • Application.
    • Signing the lease at a later date.
    • Administration processing fees.  
    • Subleasing fees.  
    • Approval fees.
  • How much is the security deposit?
Remember…
  • Always trust your initial instincts.
  • If something doesn’t seem right or you don’t trust the landlord, go with your gut.
  • See the property before you sign the lease.

Never sign a lease without visiting the property first. Students often regret doing so because the property is misrepresented either online, in writing or over the telephone. If for some reason you are not able to visit, have a friend or parent do so on your behalf before you sign.

  • UCF has a great housing department for students.  

They can provide you with a list of approved landlords, property management companies or properties that previous students have rented.

  • Consider renter’s insurance.

Purchasing renter’s insurance can safeguard you just in case the unthinkable happens. It’s certainly up to you but it’s definitely worth considering!

  • Read the lease.

Take your time reading over the details and, if you need help understanding, do not be afraid to ask for help.

Look for details in the agreement such as:

Do you have the option to renew your lease?  

For instance, you don’t want you landlord renting to someone else if you want to stay!

Are there options to sublease?  

If not, will you or a guarantor (usually a parent/guardian) be charged the full amount?

Be sure you think about this:

  • What if you’d like to live at home for the summer to save money?
  • Perhaps you want to study abroad for a semester?

 

Questions Pertaining Pre-Move In Cleaning

  • Will the apartment/house be thoroughly cleaned before we move in?
  • If so, what does a deep cleaning entail?

Note: You should expect to move into a place that is clean and safe. Often cleaning is something that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Ensure that the property  is reasonably clean before you move in.

  • Fill out evaluation forms.

When you sign the lease, make note of everything that is already damaged within the apartment on an evaluation form. I strongly recommend you take pictures of everything that is damaged and every room in the house/apartment before you move in. This will help prevent you from being charged for damage you aren’t responsible for when you move out. Once you make the list, sign and date it. Give a copy to your landlord.

 

If you need assistance, contact me. I graduated from UCF recently and can help you find a place to live quickly.