As a student in the US, you'll meet new people, experience different cultures, and enjoy the city life. Finding the perfect home-away-from-home is an essential part of this transition. You'll find an abundance of student-friendly housing options in every major city.

However, finding a suitable apartment and figuring out your budget can be a daunting task. While renting, your landlord may ask you questions that could be difficult to answer, and signing legal documents can seem scary.

Keeping that in mind, we created a guide for students looking to rent or lease off-campus!

What's the difference between leasing and renting?

As a student, you'll likely move between cities for college and internships. You might be looking for a place for a few months or a few years. This is how you'll determine if you want to rent or lease your home.

A short term rental agreement is an arrangement where you pay your landlord a fixed amount monthly. It's an excellent option for short stays! While the deal is month-to-month, you don't have to sign a contract every month, and you are allowed to terminate the agreement at any time. However, you must notify your landlord one month before you move out.

If you're looking for a long-term commitment, you can opt for a lease that spans 12 months or more. A lease is a contract where you agree to stay for a specific period. When your lease expires, you can either move out or renew the lease. Breaking a lease before it is over can be hard to do and can often cost money, so it's better to have a long-term understanding of your needs when signing.

Rent Application Fee

A rental application charge is the fee amount you pay the landlord to submit an application. It is the cost incurred by the landlord to complete your background check and assess your credit score. You can ask the landlord for a student's concession or discount on these fees.

Renters Insurance

Insurance is an essential tool to safeguard your money and property. Renters insurance covers the tenant's belongings. Renters insurance will help you recover the value of your personal belongings in the event of theft, fire, and other covered accidents. Many landlords require students to have renter’s insurance, and prices vary from around $15 to $30 a month.

Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is a contract between you and your landlord that defines everything you have agreed about the tenancy. It generally includes your personal information, address of the property, date of the agreement, duration of the contract, details of any fees to be paid, and the rent or lease amount.

It is essential to read the agreement carefully before signing, so you're clear on the terms.


Before you move in, the landlord may ask you to deposit a fixed amount of money. A security deposit is the most common type of deposit and is used to cover possible damages incurred by the tenant.

The landlord returns the deposit to you before you move out, but may deduct the deposit for any damages caused to the property. You may forfeit your deposit if you break your tenancy agreement.

Utility Fee

Utility fees are for services like electricity, water, gas, heat, and internet. The landlord decides which of these will be paid by you in your lease agreement. In some cases, the utility fee is part of the monthly rent, while in others, the tenant pays for it independently. Most student housing apartments come with these utilities included in your rent.

Lease Guarantor

As a student, you’ll likely need a lease guarantor. A guarantor (co-signor) accepts the financial responsibility of your rent or lease and offers smarter solutions. They aren't required to pay your rent or lease unless you don't, but they are responsible for all the terms of your agreement. If you need one, we can help! 

Residential Lease Inventory

A residential lease inventory is a document that takes note of the property's condition and its belongings before the tenant moves in. It is usually done by taking pictures, testing the appliances, and filling out details of the state of the belongings in an inventory form. It lets the tenant and the landlord determine the losses of the wear and tear and helps to calculate the amount of deposit that is refundable.

Now that you have this basic guide to lease terminology, you can start the search for your new home!