FAQ

 

When do I need to start searching for off-campus housing for next year?
What kinds of housing options are available off-campus?
What is a rooming house?
Who are the landlords and companies that maintain properties for undergraduate students? Can Off-Campus Services recommend a particular landlord, company or realtor?
How much can we expect to pay per month?
What about the community? Is it safe to live off-campus?
How do off-campus leases work?
How much money do I need when I sign the lease?
I receive financial aid. How will this work for students who live off-campus?
What happens if I change my mind after I sign a lease and submit a deposit?
What is the role of Off-Campus Services in the off-campus housing search?

 

When do I need to start searching for off-campus housing for next year?

If you are interested in sharing a large house or apartment with other students, you will have to start thinking about housing as early as October the year prior to your move. Actual listings of available properties do not get advertised until the last two weeks of November and throughout December. You may want to be aware, though, that a lot of places never get to be advertised; they are handed down from one student group to another.

Studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments are usually posted around mid-January. They continue to be posted through late March for June 1st availability.

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What kinds of housing options are available off-campus?

Rooming houses and large apartments

A rooming house is generally a larger house (3+ bedrooms) that has multiple rooms for rent. A landlord may choose to rent these out to one group of friends, or lease each room independently of another. Rooming houses typically share common spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and dining areas.

Large apartments (3+ bedrooms) often have similar arrangements. Some of these apartments occupy one or two floors of a converted Victorian house, while others are available in other low-rise apartment buildings.

It is important for you to know if the house you are planning to rent is licensed by the City of Philadelphia as a rooming house or whether it is just a family house, illegally used for a group of more than 3 students. Rooming houses have special fire safety and code requirements meant to protect the tenants. Beware of basement and attic rooms. Some landlords present those spaces as livable when they are sometimes not.

Studio, one- or two-bedroom apartments

Single or double rooms (dormitory-style building)

 

What is a rooming house?

A rooming house is a house in which more than three unrelated people live together, usually each having his/her own bedroom and sharing common spaces. It is important for you to know if the house you are planning to rent is licensed by the City of Philadelphia as a rooming house or whether it is just a family house, illegally used for a group of more than three students. Rooming houses have special fire safety and code requirements, meant to protect the tenants. You want to make sure that the house you are going to rent is not a fire trap for any of the roommates. Beware of basement and attic rooms. Some landlords present those spaces as livable, when they sometimes are not. Students themselves, in order to save on rent, may decide to live in such spaces. If you have questions about a particular house or room in a house, contact us for information and referral.

 

Who are the landlords and companies that maintain properties for undergraduate students? Can Off-Campus Services recommend a particular landlord, company or realtor?

Our office is unable to make specific recommendations with regard to landlords and their properties. Off-Campus Services maintains a property listing database that students can utilize to search for available apartments. The inclusion of a landlord’s properties in the OCS database is not an endorsement or approval of the landlord, its properties or its business practices. All prospective tenants are encouraged to exercise their own good judgment when evaluating a rental unit or landlord.

 

How much can we expect to pay per month?

The pricing information below reflects 2011 one-year leases for unfurnished units.

University City/West Philadelphia

Studio $767
One-bedroom $954
Two-bedroom $1362

Center City

Studio $1096
One-bedroom $1605
Two-bedroom $2218

Utilities are rarely included in the cost of houses but may be included in the cost of apartments.

 

What about the community? Is it safe to live off-campus?

With the increased freedom of independent living comes increased responsibility for one's own safety. University City is a thriving, diverse neighborhood where many University students (graduate and undergraduate), faculty, and staff live and work. The University provides many resources for students' safety and well-being. PennTransit provides shuttle service to all PennCard holders for the areas surrounding campus. In addition, a student may request a walking or bike escort when returning home in the evening. To minimize risk, students should be aware of their surroundings at all time, travel alone as little as possible and take steps to ensure the apartment or house has appropriate safety features and is kept secure by the tenants.

 

How do off-campus leases work?

Almost without exception, undergraduate leases are one-year leases, with a beginning date of June 1st. Check the ending date of your lease and be aware that several large landlords in the area terminate leases one week short of 12 months. Graduate leases typically begin in the late summer: July 1st, August 1st or September 1st.

Landlords whose tenants are mostly undergraduate students usually ask for your Penn ID when you fill out the application for the apartment/house. There may be an application fee and a credit check performed by the landlord. Some landlords also ask for a guarantor or co-signer.

In a share situation, all tenants are jointly and severally responsible for the lease. If one roommate leaves, you are still responsible for all the rent. All the roommates should sign the lease so that all are equally responsible. The landlord may ask that your parents co-sign or guarantee the lease.

 

How much money do I need when I sign the lease?

Before you sign the lease, the landlord may ask you for a deposit not to exceed a month’s rent. The landlord cannot ask you to pay any rent before you signed the lease and got a copy of it. Once you sign the lease, landlords usually ask for three months of rent up front, designated as first month, last month and security deposit. The amount of money you put down before you signed the lease will be considered part of this amount and assigned as the deposit. Some landlords, such as University City Housing (UCH) will ask for the three months at lease signing and for installment payments throughout the summer such that when you move in all the rent for the first semester is already paid.

 

I receive financial aid. How will this work for students who live off-campus?

If you receive financial aid, the amount and distribution schedule is the same, whether you live on or off campus. Visit www.sfs.upenn.edu for more information about financial aid and living off-campus.

 

What happens if I change my mind after I sign a lease and submit a deposit?

Once you have signed a lease, you are bound by the terms of the lease. If you have questions about your lease, the Off-Campus Services staff can review your lease with you and help to clarify any language you do not understand. Once you have signed the lease you have committed yourself to all its terms, even if some of them may be unfair to you. Only illegal clauses, if any, will not apply.

 

What is the role of Off-Campus Services in the off-campus housing search?

Off-Campus Services is a resource for members of the Penn community, including current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni, who are navigating an off-campus housing search. The staff is here to assist in all stages of the off-campus living experience, including support in locating appropriate housing, understanding leases and learning about tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities. The University of Pennsylvania and Off-Campus Services will not be involved in any negotiations between the leaseholder (member of the Penn community) and any landlord, property owner, student, prospective student or realtor before, during or after any agreement.