Rental Costs

When moving off campus it is important to consider your budget. How much money do you have to spend on rent, utilities (often not included), cable, internet, food, transportation, etc.? Students often live with roommates in order to reduce living expenses. See videos describing one time and monthly living expenses at the bottom of the page. View our Budgeting for Living Off Campus.

Upfront Fees

You must also consider the upfront cost to rent an apartment. There are generally four fees you will need to pay when you sign a lease: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, and realtor’s fee. You may also be required to pay an application fee by a realtor or broker (a landlord cannot charge this fee). Do not complete the application or pay an application fee or any other deposits until you have seen and agree to the lease, all addenda, and applications clauses.

Co-signer Requirements

It is common for realtors and landlords to require a student tenant to have a co-signer. A co-signer is someone that can pay rent, should you not fulfill your payment responsibility. Co-signers are often parents or families members. International students may be able to use visa documentation to waive this requirement (see our International Students page).

Security Deposit

A security deposit is collected at the time a lease is signed to cover any damages that may be incurred during tenancy or if rent is owed at the end of tenancy. The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent. If there are no damages at the end of tenancy, 100% of the security deposit, plus interest, is returned to the tenant.

  • Any lessor who accepts a security deposit from a tenant or perspective tenant, upon receipt of security deposit or within ten (10) days after commencement of the tenancy, whichever is later, must furnish to the tenant a written statement of the present condition of the premises to be leased or rented.
    • Know This! Avoid unreasonable or false deductions by completing the Apartment Condition Checklist within the first 15 days of tenancy. Give the landlord a copy as a record of needed repairs and pre-existing conditions. Take photos of every room, including floors and walls, before moving in and after moving out as further record of the apartment condition.
  • Upon receiving a security deposit, the Owner/Property Manager must give the tenant a receipt stating the following:
    • The amount of the security deposit
    • The name of the lessor receiving it
    • The date on which it is received
    • A description of the premises being rented
  • Within thirty (30) days of receiving the security deposit, a landlord/property manager must give the tenant a second receipt containing the following information:
    • The name and location of the bank where the money is being held
    • The account number
    • The amount of the deposit
  • If lessor holds the security deposit for a period of one year or longer, interest must be paid at a rate of five per cent (5%) per year, or other such lesser amount of interest that has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held.
  • The lessor shall, within thirty (30) days after the termination of occupancy as specified in the valid written lease agreement, return to the tenant the security deposit or any balance thereof; provided, however, that the lessor may deduct from such security deposit for the following allowable deductions: unpaid rent or damage caused by the tenants.
  • For any deductions made, the Owner/Property Manager must return the balance along with a statement that includes an itemized listing of the deductions with supporting documentation and receipts.

Realtor (Broker) Fee

A realtor fee is collected at the time a lease is signed as payment to the realtor or broker. Most realtors in Boston charge a realtor fee which is usually paid by the tenant. The industry standard for a broker fee in Boston is equivalent to one month’s rent. If you are being charged more than one month’s rent for a broker fee, consider using another realty company.

Financial Aid for Off-Campus Expenses

Students may be able to use financial aid, scholarship funds, and/or loans to subsidize the cost of living off campus. It will be important to know the amount available for living expenses, and when the funds will be available to you. If you have questions about how financial aid and scholarship funds can be used for off-campus expenses, please speak directly with your financial aid counselor in Student Financial Services.

Apartment Cost Range Comparison

City Studio 1-bdrm. 2-bdrm. 3-bdrm. 4-bdrm.
Allston $1,400-1,600 $1,600-2,000 $1,800-3,000 $2,300-4,100 $3,600-5,400
Back Bay $1,900-2,400 $2,400-3,500 $3,000-4,650 $4,500-5,200 $6,000-7,000
Brighton $1,400-1,600 $1,600-2,000 $1,800-3,000 $2,300-4,100 $3,600-5,400
Brookline $1,600-2,000 $2,000-2,600 $2,800-4,000 $3,000-4,000 $4,000-5,000
Cambridge $1,600-2,100 $2,100-3,000 $3,000-4,000 $4,200-4,800 $4,800-5,500
Fenway $1,600-2,000 $2,000-2,600 $2,800-4,000 $4,000-5,000 $5,400-6,000
Jamaica Plain $1,300-1,600 $1,700-2,100 $2,100-2,800 $2,800-3,400 $3,400-3,800
Mission Hill $1,300-1,600 $1,500-2,400 $2,400-3,000 $3,000-3,800 $3,800-4,800
Roxbury $1,300-1,600 $1,400-1,900 $1,700-2,300 $2,000-2,900 $2,500-3,800
South End $1,600-2,000 $2,000-2,500 $3,000-4,000 $3,800-4,500 $4,800-5,400

Most units are listed as unheated; furnishings are generally not included. Prices may change based on the number of occupants.


Navigate to our Videos page to learn more about your Boston apartment search, understanding costs and renter’s rights, and navigating life off campus.


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Northeastern University
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