Boston Apartment Search
Q: What should I know before starting my apartment search in Boston?
A: Follow our step-by-step instructions on our Get Started page. We will walk you through budgeting, roommate selection, neighborhood options and assist you in finding an apartment and signing a lease.
Q: How do I find an apartment in Boston?
A: Northeastern has an online database with apartment listings, sublet listings, roommate profiles and recommended realtors. Sign up for the online Housing Database using your Student Hub login credentials to gain access to current listings in the Boston area.
Q: I have heard of the LightView building on Columbus Avenue. Could you tell me more?
A: Yes, Lightview is an off-campus building located within our campus footprint. Lightview an alternative to living on campus. The leasing office is located at 840 Columbus Avenue. Learn more about Lightview here.
Q: How can I find roommates for my move to Boston?
A: On the Housing Database, create a Roommate Profile and browse roommate profiles. Find a roommate (or a room) with someone who shares similar interests, habits, and expectations. Use your social networks to look for roommates too, but be wary that good friends don’t always make good roommates. Refer to our Roommates page for more information.
Q: What is the “No More Than 4” Ordinance in the City of Boston?
A: The City of Boston Ordinance known as “No More Than 4” addresses overcrowded apartments. No more than 4 “unrelated persons” may live together in one unit. This ensures that renters are living in safe environments that have enough fire escapes (minimum 2), legitimate bedrooms, and the appropriate square footage per person. All names should be on the lease to guarantee your rights as a tenant. Be wary of any landlord or realtor that does not follow this safety precaution.
Q: How can I find a trusted realtor in Boston?
A: Our Housing Database has a list of licensed area realtors (select the Resources menu tab) and select Agent/Broker Information.
Q: How much will I have to pay upfront for an apartment in Boston?
A: You will likely be expected to pay 4 months of rent upfront if working with a broker/realtor. The four payments are as follows: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, and a broker/realtor fee. The security deposit and broker fee should not exceed one month’s rent each. Lastly, if a new lock is being put on the unit, a landlord may charge for a new key/lock fee. Read more under Rental Costs.
Q: Do I need a co-signor for my apartment in Boston?
A: Most landlords require students to have a co-signor. A co-signor agrees to pay the rent if the tenants are unable to do so. Co-signors are often parents or guardians. Co-signors are subject to credit checks or may be asked to provide proof of income.
Q: What if I do not have a co-signor?
A: If you do not have a co-signor you may have difficulty securing an apartment. A landlords wants reassurance that you will be able to pay the rent for the entire term. If you have funding documents (bank statements, I-20, DS-2019, or pay stubs) to provide, this may help. It is up to the landlord if they want to accept a tenant without a co-signor as they are not required to do so. You may also want to learn about and use third-party co-signing companies.
Q: What is a broker/realtor’s fee?
A: Landlords (individuals that own the property) hire brokers to show their apartments to prospective tenants. In Boston, the broker/realtor fee is most often paid by the tenants. This fee is the cost to work with a realtor, agent, or broker. A broker will meet with you to understand what you are looking for (price, location, priorities) and find an apartment that meets your criteria. The broker will show you apartments, answer your questions, and perform an application filling, and credit checks. You do not pay a broker fee until you have found the apartment and agree to sign the lease. The broker will draw up the lease and paperwork. Brokers should provide a fee disclosure. Learn more about expectation of realtors and property owners.
Sublets and Short-Term Rentals
Q: How can I find a sublet (room to rent) or post a sublet?
A: Review our subletting page to begin and use the Northeastern Housing Database to search for available sublets. Use these two great features: 1) Housing Search and 2) Roommate Search. Housing Search allows you to filter listings so you only see ‘sublet’ listings posted by fellow students. The Roommate Search feature allows you to see students that need someone to fill their room, or fill another room, in their current apartment. You should also make a roommate profile of your own so students can find you when they are searching for someone that “Needs A Room” or “Has a Room.”
Q: I had someone agree to take over my apartment as a sublet, but they have since backed out. Do I have any rights to ensure that they still pay the landlord for the months that they agreed to?
A: Tenant laws in Massachusetts and Boston (and elsewhere) do not necessarily govern subletting practices and documents the same as legal leases. That is, subletting law is minimal and may not be upheld by housing authorities. Therefore, be mindful of who you are subletting to and always have a written sublet agreement between you and the individual moving in. If the subletting agreement is verbal, you have little recourse if the person backs out. If both parties (the tenant and the incoming subletter) signed a sublet agreement that included the date, amount of money to be paid, and to which parties by when, and the original tenant received written permission from the landlord to sublet, you may be able to take the individual who “backed out” to small claims court. Learn more about subletting.
Q: How can I find short-term housing (less than 12 months)?
A: View a list of temporary housing locations near campus that are available for one night, and some allow semester-long rentals. The Northeastern Housing Database also has filters for short-term leases and co-living (shared) options that allow you to rent one room within a unit.
Q: Can someone help me understand a lease?
A: It’s important to understand the contract that you are signing. You can also educate yourself by reading our Lease Genius website page. After reviewing your lease, fill out the Lease Review form with specific questions for our team! We will provide some insight within 24-48 hours.
Q: What is a Tenant-At-Will lease?
A: This is often called a month-to-month lease where both tenant and landlord agree to terms and payment for a short period of time (typically less than a year). This type of lease allows tenants and landlords to make changes with 30 days notice (examples: raising rent, moving out).
Q: Which fees are illegal?
A: The legal fees include first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, lock fee, and a broker fee (if they are a licensed broker). Questionable and illegal fees include pest removal fees and lease re-signing fees if all tenants are remaining the same. If you are being charged fees you feel are questionable or illegal, contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 617-373-8480.
Q: Can I break my lease?
A: It is very difficult to break a lease. You may be able to discuss changing the terms of your lease with your landlord and amend the move out date, however, the landlord is not obligated to grant permission to do so unless there are extenuating circumstances. We recommend contacting our office directly at email@example.com, 617-373-8480, or visit us in 151 Speare Hall. We can advise you on your rights, your lease terms, and next steps for your specific situation and needs.
Q: Who is responsible for removing pests?
A: The landlord is responsible for scheduling and paying for pest removal and treatment. The tenant is responsible for maintaining the unit and keeping it free from garbage and bed-bug infested furniture. Clean apartments attract less pests. It is the tenant’s responsibility to notify the landlord to inform them of any problems, including pest infestations.
Q: I’m moving out soon. What should I do to prepare so I get my security deposit back?
A: Always communicate your plan with your landlord. Send an email or write a letter to confirm your last day, key return procedure, and to provide a forwarding address for your security deposit. Follow all cleaning guidelines on your lease. A landlord should not require you to hire a professional cleaning service but if you agree to it in your lease you will need to provide documentation that you paid for a cleaning. Save a receipt for your records. Regardless of what your lease states, you must leave any apartment “broom swept” clean and remove all personal belongings and trash. Schedule a final walk through with your landlord or property manager before you leave so you aren’t caught off guard by repairs or listed damages. Remember, you may only be charged for anything beyond normal “wear and tear.” Take pictures of everything before you move out as well. Review our tips for moving out.
Q: What happens to my security deposit?
A: Your landlord must place your security deposit in a separate interest-bearing account. You should receive a receipt for your security deposit upon signing your lease and making initial payments that includes the bank name and account number where the funds are being held. The landlord must return the security deposit (plus interest accrued) 30 days after the end of your lease term and may only deduct funds for the following reasons: 1) Unpaid rent, 2) Damages beyond normal wear and tear, 3) Tenant’s percentage of property tax increase (if stated in the lease). If your landlord deducts money for damages, they must provide itemized receipts. More info on the City of Boston’s Housing Stability resource page here. If you do not receive your deposit or disagree with damages, contact your landlord in writing and send the letter via Certified Mail.
Q: I’m having trouble with my landlord. Who can I speak to about this?
A: We are here to help you navigate a conversation with your landlord. Contact our OCES team to learn about your rights as a renter. The City of Boston also has resources including the Boston Office of Housing Stability and Inspectional Services Department. You may call 3-1-1 for city support or download the BOS:311 app. Additional city and legal resources can be found under Boston Resources.
Q: Can my landlord raise the rent?
A: It depends on the terms of the lease. If you are in a fixed term lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent during the fixed term indicated on your lease. If you are a tenant-at-will, a landlord may raise the rent by giving you 30 days notice. It is typical for a landlord to raise the rent each year if you decide to re-sign, but this would be considered a new lease term.
Q: I received an eviction notice. What do I do?
A: Contact our office for advice on how to proceed. We are available on a drop-in basis or you may schedule a meeting by calling 617-373-8480 or send us an email. Bring all documentation with you (current lease, eviction notice, any emails or messages exchanged with your landlord or property manager). We will want to gather more information in order to provide you the best advice and refer you to the appropriate resources.
Co-op and Network Housing – Beyond Boston Locations
Q: Where does Northeastern University have leased properties available for co-op and Semester-In students?
A: Northeastern University has leased properties in New York City, Chicago, Portland, ME and continues to expand this resoure to new cities. University properties are available for short-term stays by term (Fall, Spring, Summer I, and Summer II). All space in the leased properties is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit our Network Housing webpage for more information, and view more specific FAQs for the Northeastern leased housing.
Q: I am going outside of Boston next term for co-op or Semester-In program, but I am not interested in the leased housing, or my co-op is not in a location that has leased housing. How do I search for housing?
A: Our Network Housing staff will provide housing and relocation advice and resources, and connect you with co-op students or alumni who are currently living in your desired co-op location. Visit the Beyond Boston Housing section of our website to find multiple resources for your apartment search (within the U.S. or internationally). Feel free to contact Network Housing staff set up an appointment for help in your housing search.
Q: How do I go about securing housing in a leased property for my co-op or Semester-In program?
A: Students must first meet with a representative from Off Campus Engagement and Support individually, or attend a Beyond Boston Housing Workshop to learn more about the process for securing housing in a leased property location. Please note that space is available in the leased properties on a first-come, first-served basis.
Q: How will I find roommates and/or meet people headed to my new location?
A: If you plan to live in leased housing in New York, you won’t need to find a roommate, as the rooms there are singles. If you’re in the leased housing in our other cities, you will be assigned a roommate. You can also find co-op communities in many cities on Northeastern’s Yammer pages.
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