- Where to Start
Before you begin your search, you should establish a monthly budget that accounts for living expenses, housing costs, and any other regular expenses such as a cell phone bill, memberships, clothes, and medical expenses. Once you come up with a reasonable budget for housing, aim to stay within that figure. Secondarily, you should decide on priorities in term of size, location and other personal considerations, such as owning pets.
Rents vary considerably by neighborhood, the state of the economy, the Boston real estate market, and the size of the renting population from year to year. The prices listed here are wide ranging and are meant only to help estimate a budget.
- Studio/Efficiency: $1000-$1600 per month
- One bedroom: $1400-$2000 per month
- Two bedroom: $2000-3000 per month
- Three bedroom: $2600-4000 per month
Be sure to check for the "hidden" costs of renting an apartment, room, or house, such as those mentioned below. Check your lease for an escalator clause that would allow the landlord to raise the rent because of increases in taxes or utilities. Before signing the lease, you should discuss these with the landlord or present tenant to determine the actual cost of renting.
- When to Begin Your Search
Students who anticipate an August or September move-in date should, ideally, begin their search in May. For all other months, students should begin their search two months in advance of their anticipated move-in dates. If you do not live in the Boston area, you should plan a trip to conduct a housing search before you move. It is unwise to sign any rental agreement or lease until you have visited the location in person.
There are many ways that one can find an apartment. Scanning the off-campus apartment listings, real estate websites, Craigslist, and word of mouth are all common search methods. While the College does not endorse any off-campus housing resources, you find a list of available resources in our resource section. It is always a good idea to start looking early and use multiple sources to ensure the best results.
- Looking for a Roommate
Having compatible roommates can be the key to a pleasant living situation. Even the best of friends may discover basic differences when it comes to their day-to-day routine. It is a good idea to draw up an agreement that covers all aspects of your living arrangement with your roommate(s) before you commit to a lease. The agreement may include items such as payment of rent, utilities, and bills; responsibility for household chores; care of pets; guidelines for hosting guests; and other conditions that may be specific to your living situation.
View a sample roommate agreement form
You may wish to use the services of a roommate matching service. Check out these sites:
Nearly all of these services charge a user fee and may not guarantee that you will be matched.
- Where to Live
The Greater Boston area is divided into many distinct neighborhoods. To help narrow your search, keep the following considerations in mind:
- What price range can I honestly afford?
- How far away from campus do I want to be?
- Where are my other obligations (job, internship, etc.) located?
- What transportation, at what times, is available? If you plan to take public transportation, the MBTA has a trip planner available: http://www.mbta.com/
- How early/late in the day might I be traveling?
- Will I require parking?
- Is this apartment near supermarkets, stores, Laundromat, banking, etc.?
- Is there an excess of noise (traffic, tourists, trains, sirens, bars, etc.)?
Before making a final decision, walk around the neighborhood(s) that you are looking at, talk with residents, and stop by the local police station to get a sense of culture, community, and safety.
- Types of Tenancy
A tenant with a lease is one who signs a lease to rent a particular apartment for a specific time period. A lease, or rental contract between the landlord (lessor) and the tenant (lessee), is a written document that legally binds both parties. The tenant is obligated to pay a stated rent at a given interval, usually monthly, in return for a safe and habitable apartment.
A tenant-at-will is one who occupies a rented premises without a lease, but pays rent at an interval that is agreeable to both the lessor and lessee. The agreement for the tenancy-at-will may be either written or verbal. Either the landlord or tenant may terminate this arrangement by giving written notice 30 days or one full rental period in advance, whichever is longer. No reason is required to terminate. If rent is paid the first of each month, notice should be given prior to the first day of the month. However, either the landlord or the tenant may be able to give notice as late as the first day of the month itself. To ensure that your notice has been received, send it by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail.
The attractiveness of a tenancy-at-will is that you are not obligated to stay for a prearranged period of time should you encounter a situation that would require you to move out on short notice. However, it is usually preferable to have a written lease, because once you have signed a lease, both parties are obligated, by law, to fulfill it as it is written. Be certain that you have a copy of the lease that has been signed by you, your landlord, and a witness.
Subletting is taking over an unexpired lease from the previous tenant. Some tenants sublet an apartment for the summer only and plan to return to the apartment in September. Other tenants sublet an apartment to which you have the option to renew the lease when it expires.
A tenant may not sublet without the landlord's written consent in a subletting clause. Before agreeing to sublet, be sure that it is a legal arrangement.
Security Deposit and Last Months Rent
A security deposit and the last month's rent are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable. Last month's rent is the pre-payment to the landlord for the last month of tenancy. A security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that responsibilities of the lease will be performed (e.g., paying for damage caused by the tenant). The amount of the last month's rent and the security deposit each cannot be greater than one month's rent. If the landlord raises the rent, s/he can require you to increase both the amount of the last month's rent and the amount of the security deposit to equal the new rent. A landlord cannot transfer one for the use of the other without the tenant's consent. Likewise, the tenant may not use the security deposit as the last month's rent.
Upon receiving a last month's rent and/or a security deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt for each prepayment. The following information must be included: the amount; the date on which it was received; its specific intended use; the name of the person receiving it; if an agent is involved, the name of the landlord for whom the rent is collected; and the signature of the landlord or agent.
If last month's rent is collected, the landlord must also give you a statement indicating that you are entitled to interest; a statement indicating that you should provide the landlord with a forwarding address where interest is to be sent at the termination of tenancy; and a description of the rented apartment.
Payment of Interest
Interest is payable to you each year on the anniversary date of your tenancy. On each anniversary date, the landlord must give you or send you a statement indicating the amount of interest owed you for your security deposit and/or last month's rent. At the same time the landlord must give or send the interest due or a notice that you may deduct the interest from the next rental payment. If within 30 days of the anniversary date you do not receive such notice, you may deduct the interest from your next rental payment. You do not have to live in your apartment for more than 12 months to be eligible for accrued interest on last month's rent. If your tenancy terminates before the anniversary date, you are still entitled to all interest accrued on the last month's rent. (Interest does not accrue for the month for which the last month's rent is used.) However, the security deposit must be held for a year or more from the commencement of tenancy for you to be eligible for interest on your security deposit. Interest on both last month's rent and security deposit must be paid within 30 days of the date of termination.
Note: The landlord is required to pay interest on both last month's rent and security deposit. The law requires a landlord to hold a security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account in a Massachusetts bank. (The landlord does not have to maintain a separate account for each deposit.) Within 30 days of having received the security deposit, the landlord must give you a receipt identifying the bank's name and address, the account number, and the amount of the deposit. If the landlord fails to comply, you are entitled to immediate return of your security deposit.
Many landlords include some or all utilities in the rent. Depending on what is or is not included in your rent, your monthly costs could vary considerably. If previous utility statements are available, you will have a good idea of what to expect.
Some apartments have heat included in the rent. This typically means that the temperature is set for the whole building by the landlord and there are not individual thermostats in each apartment. Other apartments do not include the cost of heat in the monthly rent, but allow for individual control of the thermostat. This should be taken into consideration when considering your monthly budget, especially during the winter. Electric heat can be more expensive than gas or oil. Ask to see past heating bills, and check to see if the apartment is well insulated. Check windows to see if they are equipped with screens and storm windows. Check that the walls and the ceiling have adequate insulation.
Most often the landlord pays for city/town water. If you are uncertain about who pays for the water, check with the landlord.
Many landlords charge an additional fee, usually monthly or yearly, for off-street parking arrangements. Parking can cost up to $300 per month per spot. It is not uncommon to find tandem parking spots which may rent for $50-100/month cheaper than a single parking spot in the same neighborhood. Tandem spots require that you share an extended space (large enough for two vehicles to park one behind the other). It is important that you exchange contact information with the person you are sharing a space with and discuss a plan for ensuring that each of you is able to move your car when needed. If your landlord has no available parking spaces, s/he may know of someone who will lease one to you.
A parking space is a precious commodity in Boston, and parking regulations are strictly enforced. Many neighborhoods provide permit stickers to residents that enable you to park within that neighborhood's restricted area. This does not, however, guarantee you a spot. Pay attention to towing signs, street-cleaning restrictions, parking meters, permit requirements, and time limitations.
Gas & Electric
- Dormitory Living
395 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Bayridge provides housing to college women. Their facilities include furnished bedrooms, study space, a computer lab with internet access, a kitchenette, on-site laundry facilities, a chapel, and a family room. Meals and weekly linen service are also provided. Bayridge also sponsors many cultural programs, outings, and outreach opportunities throughout the year. Please call or visit their website for more information.
- Renters Insurance
- It is recommended that you take out a renter's insurance policy. Renter's insurance will protect the assessed value of your personal property in many instances, such as theft, fire, and flood. Insurance policies can be as little as ten dollars a month, and are well worth the investment.
Many insurance companies offer renter's insurance. If you or your family already have an insurance policy, check with your insurance company to see if they can offer you rental insurance. If not, you may try some of the companies below.
Local Insurance Companies & Reviews
- Short term Housing
When first arriving in Boston, you may want to consider temporary housing while assessing where you would like to live long-term. Below are a variety of resources for you to consider. Typically, August and early September are the months that short-term housing is in highest demand in the city of Boston so it is wise to book your accommodations early.
Boston & Greater Boston Hostels:
Short-term Apartment and Room Rentals:
- Sample Forms
The following are a few sample forms available for downloading in PDF format:
Statement of Condition
- Off Campus Housing FAQ
How long is a typical lease in Boston?
Leases on apartments in Boston typically last for 12 months with very few exceptions. Many landlords require that their leases start September 1st and go through August 31st.
When should I start looking for an apartment in Boston?
January 1st, June 1st, and September 1st are the three biggest turnover dates for apartments in Boston with the majority of apartments turning over on September 1st. These apartments typically go on the market 3-6 months in advance of the lease start date. Apartments that are available during off-peak months typically come onto the market 30-45 days in advance of the lease start date and are typically due to a lease break. It is not uncommon for a landlord to require tenants to commit to another 12 month lease or give notice 3-6 months in advance of the end of the lease.
What fees will I be required to pay when signing a lease?
When renting an apartment through a real estate agency, there is typically a fee of one month's rent that is charged to the tenant as a "finder's fee". Sometimes, the landlord is willing to pay a portion of this fee and you should always ask if this is negotiable. Many landlords also require that the tenant put down a deposit for the first month's rent and last month's rent or a 1 month security deposit. Some landlords require that the tenant put down a deposit equal to three month's rent (first, last, and security).
If I am not working full-time, how can I prove that I can pay my rent every month?
You may be required to have a co-signer that is willing to sign the lease with you. This is to ensure that rent will be received every month in a timely manner even if you, as a student who is not working full-time, fail to pay your rent. Each landlord has different requirements of the co-signer. Some require that they live in the U.S., others require that they live in Massachusetts, and some will allow you to show a savings account with enough money in it to cover 6+ months of rent. The important thing is that you check with the real estate agent or landlord before putting any money down on an apartment so you ensure that you can meet the requirements.
Where can I search for apartments in Boston?
Simmons manages an off-campus housing webpage that allows members of the community and greater Boston to post apartments and rooms they have for rent. These people do not need to be part of the Simmons community to submit a listing and we do not screen or endorse them. It is simply a message board that many of our students use.
Please use caution when dealing with anyone online to rent or view an apartment. As stated above, anyone can post on these message boards and, unfortunately, there are scams that take place.
What neighborhoods are easily accessible from Simmons?
Simmons College is located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. It is easily accessible by public transportation from many different neighborhoods in and around Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. You may find it helpful to use the MBTA website (www.mbta.com) to determine how far an apartment is from public transportation and Simmons College. Put the address of the apartment into the "Plan a trip" box under rider tools and put the address of Simmons in as well (300 Fenway, Boston, MA 02115).
What is included in my monthly rent?
The utilities included in each apartment can vary from building to building. Heat can be expensive in Boston during the winter months and heating bills can really add to the cost of an apartment. You may want to ask the current tenants in the apartment what their utilities cost them during the winter and summer. You may also work with your real estate agent (if you are using one) to contact the utility companies that service the apartment building. They will provide you with the average cost of the utilities throughout the year. Typically, an assigned parking space, internet, and cable are not included in monthly rent.
What questions are helpful to ask the landlord prior to signing the lease?
What utilities are included with the rent? As discussed above, this can vary from building to building. If the heat is included in the rent it often means there is only one thermostat for the building and you may not be able to control the temperature of your apartment. It will be helpful to understand what temperature the landlord keeps the building at during the winter months.
Is there laundry in the unit/building?
It is not a given that your apartment or building will have a washer and dryer available for your use. Many neighborhoods have Laundromats and wash/dry/fold services that will pick-up and drop-off your laundry for you.
Is there an after-hours contact for emergencies?
You should understand who you should call after normal business hours. This may be your landlord's home number, a property manager, a maintenance person, or an answering service.
What cleaning, painting, and/or renovations (if any) will be done prior to my move-in and will this affect my move-in date? If the landlord has agreed to make any improvements to the apartment, make sure to get the agreement in writing. The September 1st turnover often means that the landlord only has a couple hours between the former tenants moving out and the new tenants moving in. You may need to consider moving in after the 1st of the month should the apartment need to be painted or renovated.
Is there additional storage available?
It is not common to find storage areas/lockers in Boston apartments. If you own a bike, you should ask if there is a common area that you may store your bike in. Some landlords do not allow bicycles in common areas or to be parked in front of the building.
Have there been any rodent/bug problems in the building?
It is not uncommon for buildings to have rodents in Boston. It is important to understand if there is an exterminator who regularly checks the building and/or is available to come to the building should a problem arise.
What is your pet policy?
If you own a pet or are planning to get one, it is necessary to understand the landlord's pet policy and have it in writing. Do not assume that pets are allowed just because you see one in the apartment or building when you see it. You do not want to be put in the position of having to move-out or get rid of your pet because the landlord does not approve.
Why are the current tenants leaving?
With many colleges and universities, Boston is a transient city and tenants move for a variety of reasons. However, having a conversation with the current tenants can be very helpful in understanding if there are any misrepresentations about the building or apartment.