Tips for International Students, Scholars
Will you look for off-campus housing? By doing a thorough apartment search and being very selective about both the apartment and the landlord, you can prevent many potential housing problems.
Unless it is in a large apartment complex that is professionally managed, we DO NOT recommend renting an apartment without seeing it first. Choosing a place to live is one of the most important decisions you will make when you come to Buffalo. Please be careful!
Helpful tips for your apartment search are available from UB's Off-Campus Student Services.
Here are some steps to follow as you search for off-campus housing:
Step 1: Do Some Research on Available Housing
There are many websites where you can find advertisements (“ads”) for apartments. The problem with most of these websites is that the apartments do not have to pass any inspection before they are listed. Therefore, while some of the apartments may be in good condition and in safe neighborhoods, others may be in poor condition and in unsafe neighborhoods.
UB's Off-Campus Student Services Property Listing restricts its advertisements to apartments that have passed inspection. Therefore, it is the only website we recommend to students who are seeking off-campus housing.
We strongly advise you to find out the location of the potential housing in relation to UB’s North and South Campuses by checking this map.
We also strongly advise you to research potential housing by
finding out the crime rate in the neighborhood. To do so, please visit crimereports.com.
To understand the abbreviations in apartment ads, read Deciphering Rental Property Ads.
Online apartment listings:
The Office of International Student & Scholar Services does not endorse any of the websites below EXCEPT THE FIRST ONE.
Newspaper classified ads:
UB International Student Clubs:
Campus bulletin boards:
- "FOR RENT" signs in potential neighborhoods
Step 2: Visit and Inspect Potential Apartments
Visit potential neighborhoods at different times of the day before choosing a place to live. Once you’ve located a potential place, visit and inspect the apartment carefully.
Ask the following questions:
Neighborhood Safety and Condition:
- Does the neighborhood seem safe? At night too? (Check crimereports.com to gather some information. Also, ask your International Student Club representatives about the neighborhood’s reputation.)
- Are the sidewalks, driveway, and front and back yards in good condition and free of debris?
- Are there working exterior lights at doors and entrances?
- Are the exterior doors sturdy? Do they have sturdy deadbolt locks? Do they have a peephole or window so you can see who is outside?
- Is there a sturdy handrail on all stairs and a secure railing on the porch or balcony?
- Is the apartment in an attic or basement? (Attic and basement apartments with only one exit are illegal in New York State!)
- Are the windows in good condition with working locks? Do they have blinds, shades or drapes, and screens and storm windows?
- Are the basement, attic and hallways free of debris?
- Are there working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor?
- Is there lockable storage for personal belongings?
- Is the apartment clean and well-maintained?
- Are there signs of insects or rodents?
- Are there signs of leaking water on ceilings or floors? Do bathroom tiles or walls or the shower feel wet or soft?
- Are there holes in walls, windows or doors?
- Is there adequate water pressure? (Flush toilets and run hot water to find out)
- Is there a heat duct, vent or radiator in every room?
- Is there access to the circuit breaker or fuse box?
- Do the lights and outlets all work?
- Do the appliances (stove, oven, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washer, dryer) work?
- Is the carpet in good condition?
WARNING #1: DO NOT RENT an attic or basement apartment. Renting an attic or basement apartment is illegal in New York State if there is only one exit. If you live there and it comes to the attention of the housing authorities, you will be required to move out of the apartment immediately.
WARNING #2: DO NOT tolerate situations that jeopardize your health (e.g. no hot water, inadequate heating, dangerous wiring, mold, insects, rodents). Unlivable conditions can be legal grounds to break a lease. If you live in bad conditions for too long, it becomes more difficult for you to argue that the apartment is unlivable, however.
WARNING #3: BE SURE there are no bed bugs in the apartment. When you rent an apartment, do your best to ensure that there are no bed bugs. If all of the previous tenants moved out, try to find out why they moved out. To determine if bed bugs may be present, check out these photos.
Step 3: Find out about the landlord
A bad landlord can cause you unending problems. Find out as much as you can about the landlord BEFORE YOU SIGN THE LEASE. You can do so by contacting members of your International Student Club. You should also interview the landlord carefully and ask many questions. If a landlord refuses to answer your questions or is evasive, find another landlord and apartment.
Here are some important questions to ask the landlord:
- Do you live nearby? Can you quickly respond to emergencies? What is the procedure for requesting repairs?
- How many people can live in the apartment?
- How much is the security deposit? How much of it do you typically refund the tenant at the end of the lease?
- Will the locks be changed before I move in?
- Are utilities (electricity, water, heat) included in the rent?
- What are the average monthly costs for utilities? (Request copies of the bills from previous tenants).
- Where are the circuit breakers or fuse box?
- Are the heating and cooling systems, and the hot water heater in good condition?
- Are the appliances (stove, oven, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washer, dryer) in good condition?
- Will you supply garbage containers and recycling bins? Where are they stored? When is garbage collected?
- Is there a laundry on-site? Is it coin-operated?
Step 4: Get your lease checked before signing it
Take your lease to SBI Legal Assistance (UB North Campus, 377 Student Union, Tel. 716-645-3056) for review by an attorney before signing it. (This service is free for all UB students.). Keep these points in mind:
1) All leases can be modified if both the landlord and tenant agree.
2) Anything that the landlord and tenant agree upon verbally should be written in the lease. This includes repairs which the landlord promises to make, arrangements for snow removal and lawn maintenance, etc.
3) Be sure that your landlord’s address and phone number are in the lease and that the length of the lease corresponds to your time frame. Note: If you will only be in Buffalo for nine months, but you sign a twelve-month lease, you can be held responsible for the remaining three months.
4) Be sure to sign a lease (unless you are renting month-to-month). If you do not, you will be living illegally in the apartment and can be evicted. Also, the terms and conditions of your residence are not spelled out and, therefore, can change.
5) Your landlord values you the most when you’re about to sign the lease and pay a lot of money. If the landlord isn’t willing to commit in writing to promises made verbally, it's unlikely s/he will become more trustworthy over time.
WARNING #1: Your landlord rents apartments to students as a business. Some landlords (including some who speak your language and come from your country) will try to exploit you in order to make money. Always keep in mind that your relationship with your landlord is a business relationship, not a friendship. Do not allow landlords to exploit you!
WARNING #2: Before moving in with roommates, understand that all tenants are each responsible for all of the rent (not just their part of the rent). This means that, if your roommate moves out, you will be expected to pay the full rent.
Read important information about leases and your rights as a tenant.
Protect Yourself: Health, Safety & Money
Step 5: Document the condition of your apartment when moving in
Since you will likely have to pay a security deposit when you move in and will not get it back if there is any damage to your apartment, it is a good idea to take photos of any existing damage in your apartment when you move in. Fill out an “Apartment Inventory and Condition Report” as well.
Step 6: Avoid bed bugs
Some UB international students have had problems with bed bugs. To avoid these problems, be sure not to move into an apartment which is infested with bed bugs. After you move into the apartment, keep these points in mind:
1) Do not purchase a used mattress for your bed. Buy only new ones that are sealed in plastic. (Alternatively, you can buy an air mattress for a minimal amount.)
2) Do not take anything off the street for your use. This includes mattresses, furniture, etc.
Read important information about bed bugs.
Step 7: Be careful when paying your rent and security deposit
Do not pay cash and don't pay too much in advance. If you pay cash, there will be no record of your rental payments unless you get a receipt. Therefore, it’s better to pay your rent by personal check. And, while it is typical for a landlord to ask for first and last months' rent plus a security deposit, never pay more than that amount in advance.
Step 8: Purchase Renter's Insurance
Since your landlord's insurance will not cover your personal belongings, you should consider purchasing renter’s insurance in case of theft, fire, loss or damage to your personal effects.
Step 9: Document any complaints you make to your landlord
If you have a complaint, call your landlord, but be sure to follow up your phone call by sending him/her a letter in the mail (Don’t forget to keep a copy for yourself.). If you have to go to Court, written evidence is the best kind, and the Court will accept such letters as evidence that the landlord was informed of the problem.
Step10: Get to know your neighbors. Be a good neighbor
Your neighbors can be your most valuable resource. Introduce yourself to neighbors whom you feel are trustworthy. Develop a good relationship with them by keeping the noise down and keeping your property clean.
Where to Go for Help If You Have a Problem
Step 11: Seek assistance from UB if you have a serious problem with your landlord or housing.
If you have a serious problem with your landlord or housing, you should contact UB’s Off-Campus Student Services Office, 101 Allen Hall, South Campus (Tel. 829-3541, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), Erie County Department of Health (Tel. 961-6800) or SBI Legal Assistance, 377 Student Union, North Campus (Tel. 645-3056).