Off-Campus Students FAQs
First, try to make sure you have enough money for rent. It's important to budget your monthly expenses. Do not sign a lease to an apartment you cannot afford. However, emergencies do happen, and this could mean you do not have enough money to cover your rental payment.
If this should happen:
- Read your lease. If it says late fees apply, you will need to pay them. Note: Failing to pay rent on time gives your landlord the opportunity to start the eviction process. Do not make this a habit.
- Communicate. Speak with your landlord in advance if you know you will be late. Explain the situation, the date you will pay the rent, and pay what you can on time. Be sure you are respectful and appropriate.
- Get it in writing. It is always important to document transactions with your landlord. If he/she agrees to accept a late payment, ask to get it in writing.
If you are not planning to be off-campus for an entire year, you may want to consider a month-to-month lease. With a month-to-month lease you are free to move out if you give proper notice.
However, by signing a twelve month lease, you are legally bound to pay rent every month for an entire year. If you are planning to leave school before your lease is up, you have two options. First, you can pay rent for the months you are away. Second, if your lease and roommate(s) allow it, you may sublet or assign the lease to someone else. Keep in mind, Iona does not have a summer sublet culture, so please keep in mind that you will likely need to pay rent over the summer as well. However, if you can sublet or assign your lease, you will need written approval from your landlord to do this. For more information on subletting, contact Off-Campus and Commuter Services.
Never break a lease or just move out and think it will be okay. Your landlord will then have the right to bring you to court.
Prepare a repair notice form. You can find a sample form on the Off-Campus and Commuter Services website. Prepare this and mail it to your landlord certified mail with "return receipt requested." Even if you have a phone or in person conversation with your landlord, follow up in writing so there is a record of the conversation.
If there are repairs that need to be made to your apartment prior to moving in, agree to the repairs needed prior to signing your lease to avoid later frustration. Write these repairs onto your lease and include an agreed upon completion date.
First, both you and your roommate(s) should sign a written agreement that outlines how situations, such as damage to the apartment, will be handled. In any case, be sure to document the damages as they occur.
If damages are caused by you and your guests:
- Take responsibility for the damages
- Document the date and take a picture of it
- Report the damage to your landlord
- You do risk losing (some of) your security deposit for the cost of the repair
If damages are caused by your roommate or his/her guests:
- Encourage him/her to take responsibility for the damages
- Document the damages yourself and take a picture
If he/she decides to take responsibility:
- Get it in writing- have your roommate sign a document agreeing to take responsibility for the damages and corresponding charges
- Save a copy of the document to provide to your landlord when you move out so the appropriate money goes back to the appropriate people
- Have your roommate report the damage to your landlord or do so yourself
If he/she does not take responsibility:
- If you were away, prepare to show evidence (i.e. flight stubs, receipts, etc.)
- If you were not away, contact your landlord
You still risk losing part of your money, but this will show responsibility.
You must follow the obligations in your lease. If your lease is a twelve month lease, then you are obligated to pay rent through the summer. Occasionally students are able to sublet their spaces while they are away, but this is not the culture at Iona University. If your roommate(s) will be living in the space and therefore using the utilities, discuss in advance how (if at all) you will divide the utility costs during this time, and be sure to get this agreement in writing. Always try to plan in advance. If you know you will not be residing in New Rochelle over the summer, have a conversation with your landlord prior to signing the lease, and talk about the possibility of shortening the lease to allow you to move out the end of May. Your landlord is not obligated to make arrangements for you but may be willing to do this if asked.
Off-campus and commuter students can have a meal plan, but they do not have to. The off-campus meal plan is flexible and can be started with as little as $100. With a meal plan, students eating on-campus do not pay tax. This card can also be used at any of the off-campus eateries accepting the Iona meal plan.
A realtor or broker fee is typically one month's rent or as much as 15% of a year's rent. You pay this to a realtor for his or her work helping you to locate an apartment. Occasionally a property owner will pay this fee, but most of the time it is the responsibility of the renter. Your realtor should make the amount of the fee clear before he or she takes you to see properties. Remember, this fee is a payment in addition to the first month's rent and security deposit required from the property owner. You do not get this fee back.
A security deposit is intended to protect the landlord from any damage done to the property above and beyond normal wear and tear. This deposit is typically one month's rent, but can sometimes be more. You must be prepared to pay your security deposit, in addition to first month's rent, when initially signing your lease. You are not allowed to use your security deposit for the last month's rent unless your landlord gives written permission to do so. You can lose your security deposit if you break your lease.
Some landlords do require that you fill out an application, and some charge a fee. This fee usually covers the cost of a credit check to ensure that you can afford the apartment you want to rent. You should not give personal information to a landlord until you (1) have decided this is the apartment you want to rent, (2) you are are prepared to take it should you be approved, and (3) you are sure that you are dealing with a legitimate management company, realtor, and/or landlord.
You want to make sure you get as much of your security deposit back as possible. Contact your landlord to schedule a walk-through to show him/her the condition of your apartment and point out any damages that may have occurred about a month before your lease expires. Have a conversation about whether anything needs to be replaced or fixed before moving out. When you move out, schedule another walk through with your landlord. Return your keys. Provide him or her a letter with your forwarding address. Your landlord is required to refund your security deposit, minus any charges for repairs, within a reasonable amount of time (figure about one month). If he or she fails to refund the deposit, you can contact the local Office of the Attorney General at (914) 422-8755. Be prepared with as much evidence as possible (i.e. photos of your space upon move out, letters you've sent the landlord, copies of the dwelling condition form, etc).
Prior to signing a lease, you and your roommate(s) should sign a written agreement that discusses the expectations and guidelines for your off-campus experience. As a group you and your roommate(s) are responsible for payments to the landlord and utility companies. To be sure that each payment is covered, construct a detailed list of the following expenses:
- rent per month
- heating oil/gas
- security deposit
- utility deposits
Include a stipulation in your agreement that in the event one or more of your roommates fails to follow the written agreement, he or she will be responsible for any late fees as a result of making a late payment. However, if your roommate does not make a payment, you can still be negatively impacted by this. For example, if you are in a joint lease and a roommate does not provide his or her portion of the rent, you are still responsible for it. You would then need to take your roommate to court to get what is owed.
After you choose to move off-campus, whether it be alone or with friends, it is time to set a budget then decide where you want to live. By February you should prepare a monthly budget and begin looking for apartments or houses in your price range. It is likely that you will not have identified a space before your Residential Life contract and security deposit deadline. If you do not return them on time, you will not be guaranteed the opportunity to return to on-campus housing.
While looking for an off-campus housing dwelling it is important to determine if you want some or all of your monthly utilities to be included in your monthly rent or if you are prepared to write separate checks to utility companies. If you decide that you are ready and willing to sign a lease that does not include utility payments, you can find out from your landlord which utility companies he or she uses. It is your responsibility to contact the companies to set up your utilities at least two weeks before moving into your apartment.