The best place to start your search is Off-Campus Student Services. You do not need to make an appointment to visit us. Our experienced staff can help you find information to meet your housing needs and provide access to our off-campus housing website that includes apartment listings and roommate message boards.

We recommend taking the following steps in conducting your housing search. It may be difficult to tackle this on your own, especially if you haven’t lived off-campus before.

Housing Search Steps

Finding a Roommate

Off-Campus Student Services offers students the opportunity to create their own "Roommate Profile" on our Housing and Roommate site to help you in your roommate search. If you have an apartment to share or need a roommate and apartment, you can create your very own profile for other students to see.  At the same time, please browse the many other students who have already created their profiles!

Determining Budget & Location

Boston is a wonderful city with many interesting and diverse neighborhoods. Each neighborhood offers a different atmosphere, as well as different price ranges on rental property. For first time commuter students, we recommend Beacon Hill, Back Bay and Downtown Boston. While these are the most expensive areas to live in, they are the closest to Emerson College. However, your personal preference comes into play when choosing a neighborhood to live in.

Realtors are an excellent resource. They really know about the neighborhoods in which they work. If you can, it is best to contact a few different realtors before you come for your first visit to Boston. Once you feel that you know which neighborhood you want to live in, you can begin working with the agent of your choice. Be aware that most agents could charge a finder's fee (this fee is often equal to one month’s rent).

Monthly rental rates vary according to location, number of bedrooms and condition of the apartment. Most apartments are not furnished and listed prices may not include utilities. Keep in mind that there are additional costs that you must consider in addition to rent.

The monthly cost of rent is driven by the amenities that an apartment offers as well as the neighborhood it is located int. It is suggested that you make a list of the essentials and important aspects of your ideal living situation to help determine where you should conduct your search.

Note: Emerson College cannot accept responsibility for student satisfaction with any selected area. Because the housing choice is one of a personal nature, we strongly suggest that students visit and tour areas before signing a lease.

Finding Housing Information

After you figure out your roommate situation and determine your budget and location, you can start viewing apartments. Our Apartment Listing website helps you easily search for available apartments and utilize message boards to find a roommate. We have invited area realtors, leasing companies and landlords to advertise their properties and contact information on this site.

Finding a Roommate

The most important step in your off-campus housing search is figuring out your roommate situation. It’s your personal preference if you want to live with a roommate or not. The OCSS has two message boards on our Apartment Search page to help you in your roommate search. If you have an apartment to share or need a roommate and apartment, you can post an ad.


Subletting works in two ways: either you may be able to lease all or part of the leased premises to another person and retain some right to the original lease; or, you can be the person subletting the apartment. You must check with the landlord, in most cases, the lease will have a provision for subletting with their permission. The original tenant is responsible for the actions of the sub-tenant. To avoid any confusion, enter into an arrangement carefully and obtain a written sub-lease.

Local Realtors

Most agents charge a fee can be usually equal to one month's rent. You may be required to sign a contract that holds you responsible for payment of the agent’s fee. This fee should be paid only after you have actually signed a lease for an apartment referred to you by that agent. Some agents do require the fee, deposit, and initial rent upon application for a specific apartment. If this is required, do not relinquish money unless you are certain you want the apartment if the application is approved. Many landlords require initial payments of first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. If a realtor helps you find an apartment, you can also expect to be charged a fee equal to one month’s rent (i.e., if one month’s is $600, expect to put down $2400 for the apartment)

Signing A Lease

What to Know

A lease is a binding legal contract between you and the property owner or landlord. The lease protects both the landlord and the tenant by stating the terms of the agreement, which include the rental price, the number of tenants and the time period that you will reside in the apartment. When you sign a lease, you are obligated to pay the landlord monthly for the duration of the lease. Most leases are for 12 months and are difficult to break, so make certain it is the apartment you want. It is strongly suggested that you read and understand everything in the contract before you sign.

  • Know your rights as a tenant and know your landlord’s responsibilities.
  • Know what utilities are included in the rent (heat, gas, electricity).
  • Discuss and negotiate any problem areas in the lease before you sign.
  • Initial any changes you and the landlord make.
  • Do not sign the lease if there are blank spaces.
  • Do not feel pressured to sign. Take your time read it carefully.
  • Know that if you sign you are responsible for all costs and damages.
  • List all existing damages to the apartment.
  • Get a signed copy of the lease with your signature and the landlord’s signature.

Note: Within 10 days after your lease begins, your landlord must send you a signed copy statement describing the condition of the apartment. It must include a comprehensive list of existing damage to your apartment, including sanitary and building codes violations ascertained by the state or local government. You may also want to know if there are any rules or concerns about the apartment.  Below are examples of questions to ask:

  • Are there rules regarding tack and nail holes?
  • Who has the right to conduct inspections and how often?
  • Will the landlord provide paint?
  • What are the rules concerning noise and conduct?
  • Will the landlord reduce rent for maintenance done by tenants?
  • Can the rent increase if the numbers of tenants increase?
  • Do roommates have to be approved by the landlord?


Apartments without leases or 30 day move out clauses are called tenancy-at-will. This agreement allows a tenant to rent the premises for an unspecified amount of time. It is strongly recommended that you get the agreement in writing noting your monthly rental payment and any other information. To terminate a tenancy-at-will, the landlord or tenant must give at least 30 days advance notice.

Moving In/Out

You always want to plan ahead for your moving. Listed below are a few things to think about before moving in and moving out.

Before moving in:

  • Do not move into an apartment if the condition is unacceptable
  • Arrange utilities before you move in
  • Try to set up phone lines and/or cable in advance
  • Ask your landlord about trash and recycling pick-up
  • Learn about off-campus recycling 
  • You need to display your name on the mailbox to receive your mail
  • Change your address with school and local post office. You can update your local address with Emerson College via eCommon

Before moving out:

  • You must give a 30-day notice to your landlord if you are planning to move out, even if your lease expires
  • Before you move out, be sure to clean your apartment thoroughly. You can be charged for additional cleaning if the condition of the apartment does not meet requirements
  • Make an appointment with your landlord and jointly inspect the apartment. The security deposit may not be refunded in full if there is any damage in the apartment. Be sure to return the keys to the landlord
  • Change your address with school and local post office. You can update your local address with Emerson College via eCommon. Complete the USPS official change of address form to forward your mail appropriately
  • If necessary, make arrangements to store furniture or personal belongings