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 myNortheastern login credentials to gain access to current listings in the Boston area.
Q: I have heard of the new LightView building on Columbus Avenue. Could you tell me more?
A: Yes, Lightview is an off-campus building and opened in Fall 2019. It is 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: In the Housing Database, create your own Roommate Profile and browse other roommate profiles. Find a roommate (or a room) with someone who shares similar interests, habits or expectations. Don’t forget to use your social networks to look for roommates too, but be wary that good friends don’t always make good roommates. Use our Roommate Selection Worksheet and Good Roommate Doc to find the best roommate for you!
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” was put into place to curb overcrowded apartments off campus. It means that no more than 4 “unrelated persons” may live together in one unit. This is to ensure that undergraduate students are living in safe environments that have enough fire escapes (minimum 2 egresses), legitimate bedrooms, and the appropriate square footage per person. Make sure all your roommates are on the lease so they have access to their 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: Sign up to use our Housing Database to view our list of recommended realtors (select the Agents/Brokers menu tab) and browse apartment listings realtors have posted.
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 cannot 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.
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.
Q: Can someone help me understand a lease?
A: It’s important to understand the contract that you are signing. You may email your lease to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our office in 151 Speare Hall to review the terms in your lease. You can also educate yourself by reading our Lease Genius website page and brochure.
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) Learn more about tenant-at-will leases.
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 application fees, pet fees, 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. Learn more here.
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 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. Email, call or stop by our office for advice to learn more 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.
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.
Beyond Boston Apartment Search
Q: Where does Northeastern University have leased properties available for co-op and Semester-In students?
A: Northeastern University’s Off Campus Housing and Support Services has leased properties in New York City (in both Manhattan and Brooklyn), Chicago, Washington D.C., and Mountain View, CA that are available for short-term stays by term (Fall, Spring, Summer I, and Summer II). We also have housing accommodations available in San Francisco. All space in the leased properties is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit our Beyond Boston Housing webpage for more information and prices for each location, as well as to 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: Off Campus Housing and Support Services is here to provide housing search and relocation advice and resources, advise you on what to look for and avoid, help you with lease, landlord, roommate questions or concerns, 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 us at any time to 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 Housing and Support Services individually, or attend a Beyond Boston Housing Workshop to learn more about the process for securing housing in a leased property location. Once you have met with someone from OCHSS or attended a housing workshop, you can fill out the leased housing application for your desired leased property location. Please note that you must have your co-op or Semester-In start and end dates near-finalized prior to filling out the leased housing application. Following the application, you will submit a $200 deposit for each term (Fall, Spring, Summer I or Summer II) you’d like to secure housing for. This will ensure your leased housing reservation is held. Closer to your move-in date, you will receive move-in instructions via email. 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 Chicago, Washington D.C., or Mountain View, your roommates will be assigned to you, and you will be introduced to them via email.
If you don’t plan to secure the leased housing, you can meet others in several ways. You can…
- 1. Attend a Beyond Boston Housing Workshop as soon as you secure your co-op. These sessions generally run from late February until the end of April and early October until the end of November. OCHSS holds Beyond Boston Housing Workshops that serve as information sessions, as well as a way for you to meet other students headed to your co-op location.
- 2. Opt-in to the Domestic Co-op Map, a voluntary tool in which you can plot your co-op on a map to share your contact information with others who have also opted-in. Opting in means sharing your name, Husky email, employer, and co-op work address with us, and we’ll plot a pin on the map for you! You’ll be able to click on other pins to see who else is in the area as well. Email email@example.com to opt in to the map once you’ve secured a co-op!
- 3. Join our Beyond Boston Housing Facebook Group! This group is full of students headed beyond Boston for co-ops and other academic programs. It could be a great way to meet roommates and others headed to your co-op location.
- 4. Make your co-op public on SAIL! To do this, log into SAIL on mobile or web, go to your timeline, select your co-op, and make it public. If you’re not sure how to do it, check out this video. This will ensure that your co-op is public so that your peers can find you and reach out!
- 5. Attend the annual Bon Voyage event hosted by OCHSS, a casual social networking/resource fair, which is a fantastic opportunity for you to meet students and discover basic information about your city. This event usually takes place twice annually (April and December) just before each co-op term. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the exact date of Bon Voyage for your upcoming co-op term!
- 6. Attend the Welcome Event in your city (New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles). OCHSS teams up with Alumni Relations to host Welcome Events for co-ops and area alumni every co-op term. These casual dinners are a great way to network and make friends!
- 7. Attend or plan events in your new co-op city by taking part in the Beyond Boston Community Ambassador program! Run by OCHSS, this program allows you to meet others in your new co-op city by attending Northeastern sponsored events. Attend a sports game, a co-op dinner, visit a museum, and more with funds provided by OCHSS.