Boston Off-Campus Rental Tips

If you are moving to Boston for the first time and intend to rent an off-campus apartment there are some things you should know that can help you in the process:

  1. Realtors who deal with apartments make money from charging a fee for the actual placement of a lessee in an apartment.  This fee is normally equal to the cost of one month’s rent for the apartment leased.  Sometimes the landlord will pay half or the entire fee.  In other cases, no fee is involved.  When you are shown an apartment, make sure to ask how much the fee is, and who is responsible for paying it.  It may be possible to avoid paying a realtor fee by contacting the landlord directly.
  2. Some realtors require co-signers for apartments.  Be sure you have someone prepared to co-sign your lease with you.  Most realtors will fax the lease agreement to your co-signer, and ask them to return the agreement immediately.
  3. Landlords often expect money up front when you choose the apartment you wish to lease.  He or she MIGHT expect (1) first month’s rent, (2) last month’s rent, and/or (3) a security deposit, which can equal one month’s rent.  This is not money you lose, but it is used to assure the landlord that “you mean business.”  The security deposit will be placed in an interest-bearing account, and you will be entitled to receive that interest if you stay in your apartment for more than one year.  On-campus apartment rentals do not require this large up-front deposit, but do charge more money per month for their apartments than off-campus apartments in the area typically do.
  4. Parking in Boston is scarce and can be extremely expensive.  If you live within the municipality of Boston, you can acquire a parking sticker specific to the neighborhood in which you reside.  You must have Massachusetts license plates and Massachusetts car insurance to be eligible for a sticker.  A neighborhood parking sticker gives you the right to park in the area, but does not guarantee you a parking spot.  Some apartment buildings have parking lots, which may require a parking fee.  You should ask the landlord or realtor if parking is available.  Brighton does have some on-street parking without a sticker, but this is extremely limited. In Brookline, no overnight street parking is permitted at all, and individual parking spaces are rented at approximately $150/month.  For all of these reasons it is often best if you can reside near a bus or train line and not bring a car at all.
  5. If you are not bringing a car to Boston, you will want to find an apartment close to public transportation.  In eastern Massachusetts, the public transit system is called the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).  The MBTA is made up of a commuter rail line (which services suburban Boston), an extensive bus system, and a subway/trolley system (called the “T”).  Be sure to ask your realtor how convenient the apartment is to public transportation.
  6. For your reference:  Boston University has five stops on the “B” branch of the “Green” subway/trolley line, and the “BU Central” stop is directly across from the School of Theology.  The “C” and “D” branches of the subway are routed through Kenmore Square on Commonwealth Avenue, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the School of Theology, so it is convenient to live near these lines, as well.  The 57 bus line runs directly in front of the School of Theology, and the 65 and 66 bus lines drop off within close walking distance.  Apartments near these public transportation lines are particularly convenient for STH students.
  7. For information about your legal rights as a renter in Boston, you may use the following website as a resource:  http://www.cityofboston.gov/residents/housingAndProperty.asp
  8. September 1st each fall is the busiest move-in day of the year in Boston, with thousands of apartments turning over across the city.  If your lease begins on September 1st, and you can’t negotiate a different move-in date, then be prepared.  Check out the following website for helpful information about moving into town on September 1st:  http://www.newenglandpremiere.com/moving-to-boston