Searching For and Securing Co-op Housing Beyond Boston – What To Consider
There are several points to consider prior to securing your housing beyond Boston. Ask yourself the following 10 questions:
1. How long do I need the housing for?
Consider how long you will be off campus beyond Boston for—is it a short stay, the semester, a year, and is there a possibility for your time in that location to be extended? In Boston, the typical term of a lease is one year. This may be different in your location outside of Boston. If you do not plan to be in that location for a full year, a short-term lease may make sense.
If you plan to be in the location for the duration of a typical semester, university or student-specific housing may be a good option. If your time is longer than a typical semester, you may consider looking into other organizations that offer short-term accommodations that are not necessarily student-oriented. Another option may be splitting up your accommodations for the duration of your stay, such as temporary accommodations (hotel or home share) for a portion of the time, and student-housing for the remainder of the time. See the below table outlining accommodation suggestions depending on the duration of your time. To learn more about each of these accommodation types, visit our Types of Housing section under Question #5.
|Length of Stay||Suggestions for Types of Accommodations to Research|
Less than 1 month
1 – 4 months
2. What is a realistic housing/living budget for this location?
Before securing housing, or deciding to study or work beyond Boston, it is important to consider a realistic monthly budget. Generally, you should aim for your housing costs (rent and utilities) to be around 30% of your income or allotted monthly finances. If you won’t have a monthly income while you’re there, ensure you have this amount saved up, or have funds coming from other sources. Use the local city or state’s government websites to research the housing market in that area.
Northeastern’s Center for Financial Independence (Thrive)
Thrive supports all Northeastern students in the pursuit and achievement of financial competency and, ultimately, financial independence. Its programming imparts the knowledge and skills needed to make informed, savvy decisions about personal finances, both short-term and long-term, across the spectrum (investing, debt management, saving, credit cards, student loans, living on a budget, home/car purchases, retirement and more). Specifically when moving to a new location, Northeastern’s Thrive office can help you build a budget that will incorporate housing costs.
3. When do I need to secure housing by?
Of course, starting the housing search earlier is always a good idea. Starting early will ensure you have the time to find a place that fits your criteria, enable buffer time should any issues arise, and provide peace of mind that you have housing when you arrive at your location. Most students generally secure housing between 2 and 3 months prior to the start of their co-op.
4. What are the requirements to secure housing?
If you plan to sign a lease, student renters are often required to name a co-signor so landlords can ensure their tenants are financially competent and will pay rent each month, as well as provide a social security number for a background/credit check. Evaluate the validity of what is being asked of you to share, and provide proof in the form of a co-signor or bank statements if necessary. Because it is risky to send sensitive information to organizations or individuals you have not met in-person before or are unfamiliar with, this may make it logistically difficult to secure housing before going to your location if the organization requires sensitive information. To make this process easier, it is best to secure housing with organizations you are familiar with, such as universities or via Husky connections such as peers, alumni, or parents. Question #5’s “Non-Employer Provided Housing” section indicates how you can be connected with peers.
Consult with OCHSS if you are unsure about disclosing the information being asked of you from a potential landlord, realtor, or organization. We do not recommend sending sensitive and/or personal information to organizations or individuals that you have not met in person or are unfamiliar with.
You can also use mySmartRenter to verify the property owner of an address that you plan on renting. Though it costs money, this tool is useful to prevent scams and to gain helpful information on the person you’ll be renting from. Please note that this tool can only be used to verify property owners and not sublessors.
If you cannot secure housing through reliable sources, it may be best to secure temporary accommodations first (hotel or home share). Then, when you’re on the ground in the location, you can visit places in-person to verify the accommodation. From there, you will likely be able to secure reliable housing accommodations for a longer period of time. See Question #5 for housing and resources to begin your search.
5. What type of housing and resources are common and available in this location, and how do I go about finding it?
A. Employer Provided Housing
The first step, prior to seeking accommodations on your own, is to reach out to your employer to ask if they provide housing or a housing stipend. If they do not, ask if they have any recommendations for housing, knowledge of where previous Northeastern students have lived in prior terms, or have any resources on hand regarding what to look for or avoid in the housing search process. Keep in mind, it is likely that your employer will be more knowledgeable about the specific area than yourself (unless you are from this area!) or OCHSS. This is why you should utilize the organization as a first resource.
If your employer does not provide housing or has very limited housing resources, there are other types of accommodations you can secure and resources you can use. Click the “Non-Employer Provided Housing” heading above to learn more about OCHSS’s Housing and Relocation Resources by City, how to be connected to Huskies who have had experiences in that location before, and tips for using third parties to find housing.
C. Types of Housing
A furnished or unfurnished apartment is what you may be most familiar with. Keep in mind that when on co-op beyond Boston, a furnished apartment will likely be easiest to work with given the logistical challenge of purchasing, renting, and moving furniture for 6 months. It’s likely that you could have your own room (or a shared room), with shared common spaces such as a kitchen, living room, and/or bathroom.
Dorm-style student housing may be available, even if it’s not at the university that may be closest to your workplace. There may be universities nearby that offer on-campus or off-campus accommodations, and OCHSS can help you find these. Northeastern University has informal affiliations with many universities, and these universities may offer housing options for you while beyond Boston. For example, in Seattle, Northeastern has an affiliation with Cornish College of the Arts’. Learn more about possible university affiliations on the Housing and Relocation Resources by City page. Additionally, there may be non-university affiliated student housing organizations as well.
Home sharing, such as Airbnb and couch-surfing, are strongly discouraged by the university due to the unregulated nature of the sharing economy and the difficulty for students to vet such arrangements. The university recommends against sharing apartments with strangers. Consider renting the whole apartment/home. Airbnb also has options to filter for sublets and long-term rentals, which may yield more non-sharing options. As always, read reviews, look for “Super Hosts,” know what’s included, and take note of the cancellation policy. Oftentimes, the accommodations through Airbnb are furnished apartments (though there are a range of other types of accommodations, such as whole houses or single rooms). See below for special tips if you choose to disregard the university’s recommendation against home sharing:
|Plan to secure an Airbnb (or other type of homesharing option) while beyond Boston?
Use these tips!
BEFORE YOU BOOK
AFTER YOU BOOK
6. How can I verify this housing exists and my lease is legitimate?
It may be difficult to verify that a housing opportunity exists when you’re not able to travel there and visit the place ahead of time. However, there are a few actions you can take to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success before arriving, including the following:
- Seek housing opportunities through trustworthy connections: fellow Huskies, relatives or friends in the area, OCHSS, established and reliable entities (such as your employer or a nearby university)
- Ask the landlord for a live video tour of the apartment
- Ask your landlord for the contact information of current or previous tenants (your landlord is not required to disclose this information, but it could be worth a shot!)
- Similar to RentSmart Boston, there may be a local tool on the city’s website that will help you verify the owner of the property (make sure it matches up with your lease!)
- Utilize mySmartRenter, a paid resource (approx $35/report) that provides a comprehensive background report on owners, landlords and property managers of any property you’re considering leasing/renting. Give yourself peace of mind at a fraction of what you could potentially lose in a scam or dealing with a negligent landlord.
- Send your lease to OCHSS via email (email@example.com). We’ll provide a lease review for you and can assess your lease against other typical leases in that area.
7. Does this neighborhood or housing option fit my health and safety needs?
Northeastern University has resources to ensure safety, such as NUPD, the SafeZone app, and UHCS when you’re here on the Boston campus. But, who do you contact if you experience a health or safety issue while beyond Boston? These are important considerations prior to your departure.
Your main resources for safety beyond Boston will be the International Safety Office, as well as Northeastern University Police. The two offices work in conjunction to ensure Northeastern students are safe as they travel beyond Boston for co-op or another academic program.
The International Safety Office (ISO) aims to monitor global events, assess the potential impact to Northeastern travelers, communicate effectively with the Northeastern community, and respond to emergencies. Visit their website to learn more about these services, and what resources ISO offers for students beyond Boston, including best contact numbers for both emergencies and non-emergencies.
The Northeastern Police Department aims to ensure all Northeastern students are safe no matter where they are. If you need help beyond Boston, contact Northeastern police at +1.617.373.3333 for emergencies and +1.617.373.2121 for non-emergencies. You can also visit their website to read more about travel safety tips and how they work closely with the International Safety Office to prioritize student travelers.
Preparedness and Research
The International Safety Office and NUPD require all students to enter their international and domestic travel itineraries and housing accommodations into the Travel Support Network, which hosts the university’s new and improved Travel Registry and offers a range of support services, including urgent and emergency medical assistance for travelers outside the US on university travel. Travelers will find the Travel Support Network to be easy to access and use. It can be accessed in the following ways:
Via a web browser, visit “My Travel Plans” in the myNortheastern portal or directly via GardaWorld Travel Security portal. Users should enter their Northeastern email and then will be taken to a Northeastern log in screen to sign in with their myNortheastern username and password.
Via the mobile App, download the mobile app by searching “GardaWorld Travel Security” in the App Store or Google Play Store. The new app allows you to register travel directly within the application.
Via Phone/email while traveling for university business, contact the 24/7 international assistance hotline +1.857.214.5332 (international collect calls are accepted). The existing international assistance hotline will remain active during this transition.
To register your travel plans into the travel registry, follow these instructions.
Before securing your housing, it’s a good idea to obtain as much information as possible from the housing provider, such as:
- Safety or incident reports related to the housing
- If the housing provider knows of any Northeastern (or other university) students who have lived there recently
- A list of what is included and not included in the accommodations
- Safety features of the accommodations
- The cancellation policy or deadline
- Verification and reviews
If you plan to stay with a host family through a homestay, ask which members of the host family will be staying overnight at the residence and if other students will be residing there.
In general, the following safety tips are important to consider no matter where you are.
- Practice ride share safety when using Uber, Lyft, or other for-hire car/taxi services.
- Know your neighbors.
- If you decide to walk alone, especially at night, use well-lit, familiar streets.
- Never take poorly-lit shortcuts through alleyways or wooded areas where someone may be hiding.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Plan your route and walk with confidence. Avoid wearing earbuds or talking on the phone.
No matter where you are, it’s important to ensure your housing is safe and secure. Read the following tips to consider when you arrive at your housing accommodations:
- If your building has a security desk in the lobby of the building, introduce yourself. Ask about their hours, policies, or rules that the security team may enforce.
- Check the door locks to make sure they are functioning properly.
- Make sure your door has a deadbolt lock and a peephole.
- Become familiar with how your door locks operate, and remember to keep your door locked at all times.
- Whenever you leave your apartment, lock your door and take your keys.
- If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden rod in the door so it can’t be opened from the outside.
- Immediately report all suspicious activity, strangers loitering in or near the building, or behavior by other residents or tenants that you feel presents a safety or security risk.
- Make sure that you know who has the master keys. That is, who has access to your building.
- The mailboxes should be locked.
- Know who handles your maintenance (snow, trash, burned-out lights). Hazardous situations should be handled immediately.
- Fire escapes are to be used for emergency exit use only.
- If your apartment and/or building does not allow you access to a rooftop or deck, respect this limitation. It is in place because those areas are not deemed safe for occupancy.
Make sure your apartment is fire safe. The tips below are important to consider anywhere. Do you have working smoke alarms and two ways out? Take these 3 steps towards safety today:
- Watch the #BestRoommatesEvah video here. Review fire safety tips and share with your friends and roommates.
- Check your apartment using the Off Campus Housing Fire Safety Checklist.
- Follow @campusfirewatch for a Fire Safety Tip each day!
Fire Safety Resources
- Boston Fire Safety Website
- NFPA Fire Safety Checklist
- Avoid cooking fires with these safe cooking guidelines.
Protecting your personal belongings
When traveling beyond Boston, it’s a good idea to protect your belongings. Even though you may have renter’s insurance now to cover your belongings here in Massachusetts, check your policy to see if it covers your belongings in a difference state. If not, consider purchasing travel insurance that will protect your belongings and yourself.
8. What is the proximity of this housing to my work or study location, and how will I be getting around?
While it may seem obvious, you’ll want to make sure that your accommodations are within close proximity of your place of work or study. A two hour commute each way will be draining, and also take time away from other opportunities to explore, socialize, relax, or be productive. Your proximity to public transportation in your location is an important consideration as well.
Unless the location you plan to work or study is where your family lives, you may not have a car. The university advises against self-driving vehicles or motorized scooters/bikes while traveling, and does not provide insurance for these activities. As such, consider how you’ll commute to your workplace or university, and how reliable the public transportation is in that area. Additionally, are there other viable options such as biking, rideshare, taxis, trains, or some other means of transportation? If you plan to bike, how will you acquire a bike once you get there? If rideshare is an option you plan to use, what are the apps needed on your phone? How safe and/or reliable are the taxis? Have a plan for transportation prior to arriving at your destination.
9. What will happen to my on or off-campus housing accommodations when I leave Boston, and will I find housing when I return?
Prior to leaving Boston, you’ll want to make sure that your housing here in Boston is dealt with in the necessary capacity. If you’ve already committed to on-campus housing or signed a lease for off-campus housing, determine what your options are. This may be cancelling your on-campus housing or finding a sublet for your off-campus apartment so you are not paying double rent. Additionally, have a plan for how you will secure housing in Boston upon your return.
Cancelling Your University Housing
If you’ve secured a co-op that is further than 20 miles outside of the Boston area but you’ve already committed to on-campus housing, you can cancel your housing, regardless of the cancellation schedule. To submit your request, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. In this email, include your name, NUID number, the semester you are requesting to cancel, and a detailed reason for the request. Documented verification from your co-op or academic advisor is required and should be forwarded via email. Once received, University Housing can cancel your housing assignment without penalty.
Subletting Your Off Campus Apartment
Off-campus housing may be a bit more complicated if you’ve signed a year-long lease with term dates that overlap with your co-op beyond Boston. For example, perhaps you signed a year-long lease beginning September 1, but plan to leave for a co-op beyond Boston come January. Since you’ve signed a legally binding contract for the term dates indicated on the lease, you are still responsible for making monthly rent payments during this time. Read your lease and determine if subletting your room is an option. Subletting your room or apartment usually requires written permission from the landlord, and may involve extra subletting fees depending on what your lease indicates. Visit our webpage on subletting to ensure you know the best practices for subletting your off-campus apartment.
Finding Housing Upon Your Return
Finding housing upon your return may be difficult to navigate while you’re in another location, but this is an important consideration to think about even before you leave. Will you have access to the Off Campus Apartment Database while away? Can you designate a roommate or parent to find off-campus housing arrangements on your behalf while you’re away on co-op? Is subletting the best option upon your return? If you’re returning to Boston at the end of the semester or end of a usual 6-month co-op term, it is unlikely that there will be year-long leases available (most year-long leases in Boston begin in September). Have a plan before you leave for how you will find housing when you return, and contact OCHSS with any questions about your housing search.
10. How do I go about moving there and shipping my belongings?
Consider how you’ll travel to your destination beyond Boston, and ensure you make these arrangements well in advance. The earlier you book, the less expensive your trip will be, whether it’s a flight, train, bus, or rental car. Also, consider how you’ll transport your belongings to your destination. OCHSS’s moving and storage website has helpful options to transport your belongings.
However, many students also just bring one suitcase full of clothes and essential/starter items, then purchase other household items or furniture once they arrive at their destination. At the end of your co-op, consider donating, selling, or leaving your items for the next tenant if you can coordinate with them. Be careful not to leave furniture or household items if you have not coordinated with the next tenant or your landlord – you don’t want to be charged for any furniture or trash removal your landlord may have to do as a result!