Title

Preparing to Live Off-Campus

If you choose to live off-campus, remember that wherever you rent, you are moving into someone's neighborhood. There are simple common sense courtesies that will make your home life more pleasant for you and for everyone around you. 

Considerations Before Renting

Do you want to move into an area of young families with small children? Are you looking in a neighborhood with a high percentage of elderly residents? Consider your life-style. Will it be compatible with that of those already living there? 

In R-2 zones (which constitute much of the city's residential area), single-family homes can be occupied by no more than three unrelated people. If your dwelling is in violation, the city can require the landlord to reduce the number of occupants by evicting you or one of your roommates. 

If the apartment does not come with a parking space or sufficient parking for the number of tenant vehicles, will the landlord rent additional space(s)? Is other convenient parking available or will your vehicle be a problem to park? 

As an off-campus student you have costs like rent, heating, cooling, water, electric and food. We recommend this easy budget formula to see what you can afford. You can find this resource by clicking here

Signing a Lease

The last step in the process of finding a place to live is probably the most important: reading and signing the lease. A lease is a contract conveying the right to possession of real estate to a tenant for a designated length of time and usually for a specified rent. It is crucial that you read the entire lease carefully and understand all its terms and provisions. Many of the problems that can arise in a rental situation can be forestalled by simply understanding what is in the agreement. Remember, anyone 18 years or older who signs a rental contract can be legally bound by its terms. 

Although most landlords in the Ithaca area require a lease, you may be able to rent a place without entering into some form of contract. When you rent housing without a lease, you have the full right of possession and reasonable use of the property, just as you would with a written lease. You are entitled to one month's notice from the landlord that you must vacate the property. In turn, you must give the landlord one month's notice of your intent to leave. If you do not leave as promised, the rent may be increased substantially, or you may be evicted. 

However, remember that memories become vague with time, and disputes may arise over verbal agreements made in the past. Some of the benefits of having a lease agreement are that the rent is usually constant, and the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenant are clearly defined.

Tips - Before You Sign a Lease

You and a landlord can mutually agree to add to or otherwise change the proposed lease. This is especially important if the landlord promises to make improvements to the property prior to or during the tenancy. Be sure to: 

  • get everything in writing, dated, and signed by both you and the landlord (a written lease may not be legally modified by an oral agreement). 
  • all agreed additions and deletions are in writing and are initialed by both you and the landlord on all copies of the lease. 
  • mark objectionable clauses, and try to have them removed. 
  • list any provisions you would like to add (e.g., listing the specific appliances a landlord indicates will be provided; that the landlord will paint the premises or make modifications before you move in). 
  • if any rules or provisions are part of a separate document, either have these included as part of the lease or obtain a copy for your records. 

  • see an attorney or a tenant advocacy service if the lease is extremely complex, involves large amounts of money, or is for a long time period, such as three or more years. 

  • not sign a lease that has any blank sections. 

  • not agree to a provision to obey rules not yet written. 

  • assume the landlord will enforce every lease provision.