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How to Get an Apartment as a Student With Little Income

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On-campus dorms might be part of the so-called college experience, but they’re often small, cramped and incredibly expensive. That’s why many want to learn how to get an apartment as a student.

However, finding an off-campus apartment as a college student can be difficult. If you don’t have a substantial income, many landlords won’t approve you for a lease.

Student loans might be the only source of money you have access to. If that’s the case, it’s important to know that there are ways to rent an apartment with — and without — your student loan funds.

1. Consider a private home rather than a complex
2. Ask a friend or family member to cosign the lease
3. Pay more upfront
4. Find a roommate
5. Sublet an apartment
Plus: Why living off-campus can be a smart choice

1. Consider a private home rather than a complex

If you apply to rent an apartment through a large complex, you’ll have to deal with a property management company. These organizations tend to have strict rules regarding who qualifies for a unit, and many landlords and property management companies will require your monthly income to be at least three times the rent.

In some cases searching for off-campus college housing, you’ll have better luck renting from an individual than from a company. Private landlords will likely be more understanding of your situation as a student and more willing to work with you as a result. They also tend to have more relaxed guidelines and might not require a minimum income or a credit check.

You can find rooms and apartments for rent from private landlords on websites like Zillow and Rent.com. You might also reach out to Airbnb hosts and ask about the option of a long-term stay at a discounted rate.

2. Ask a friend or family member to cosign the lease

If you can’t qualify for an apartment on your own, another option to consider is asking a friend or relative to act as a guarantor or cosigner on the lease. Unlike a roommate, who’s on the lease and lives with you, a cosigner guarantees the lease but doesn’t move into the unit.

If you fall behind on your rent payments, the cosigner is responsible for making them instead. Because there’s a guarantee the rent will be paid, landlords are more willing to approve your apartment application if you have a cosigner.

However, make sure you carefully consider the pros and cons of this approach. If you can’t afford the payments and your cosigner has to make them, your relationship could be damaged.

Other financial tips when finding an off-campus apartment
Check your budget to see what you can realistically afford, accounting for the upfront costs of an application fee, security deposit and first month’s rent.
● Map out ideal apartment locations that won’t increase your transportation costs: You might prioritize complexes near bus stops or within biking distance, for example.
● Ask landlords about what is and isn’t included in rent to avoid the surprise of extra costs for bills like electricity, water or internet, as well as renter’s insurance.
● Request a lease that spans the school year and no longer, freeing you up to leave town when classes aren’t in session; a month-to-month arrangement offers maximum flexibility.

3. Pay more upfront

Some landlords are more flexible with their income requirements than others. In some cases, they might be willing to approve your application if you pay more upfront by putting down a larger security deposit, or paying first and last month’s rent.

If you have student loans, you can use that money to make a larger upfront payment and potentially bypass the landlord’s usual requirements — just make sure you create a budget for all your education expenses first.

Bottom line: Using too much of your student loans for housing could leave you short for your tuition bill.

LendingTree’s do’s and don’ts for using student loan money
Do Don’t
● Housing
● Food
● Transportation
● Books and supplies
● Tutoring
● Furniture
● New clothes
● New car
● Alcohol
● Vacations
The best thing you can do with leftover student loan money is to return to your lender, which will lower your outstanding balance. That might not be possible, though, if student loans are needed to cover your living costs.

4. Find a roommate

Many people lease apartments in their name and then look for a roommate as a way to reduce costs. Finding a roommate who already has a home can be a great option for students in need of housing. You can move into an apartment you couldn’t otherwise afford and split the expenses with another person.

If you need a roommate, spread the word on campus, or check out websites like Roomster and RoomieMatch.com. Craigslist works, too, but be careful, as its listings aren’t vetted.

5. Sublet an apartment

Subletting occurs when a tenant rents out the property that’s being leased to them to another person. If you sublet someone’s apartment, you make payments directly to the original lessee, not to the landlord.

For students, subletting can be a smart choice. People who sublet their apartments are often more flexible than traditional landlords when it comes to income requirements. Plus, subleases are usually for less than 12 months, so they might be more compatible with the school year.

If you decide to go this route, make sure you and the original lessee abide by the terms of the original lease. Some landlords don’t allow subletting — so if you rent the apartment anyway and the landlord finds out, you could face immediate eviction. Creating a subletting contract can protect both you and the lessee.

You can find apartments for sublet on websites such as Airbnb.

Why living off-campus can be a smart choice

Although living in a dorm can be convenient, it also can be expensive. According to The College Board, the average cost of room and board at a public, four-year, in-state institution is $11,950 for the 2021-22 school year.

Over the course of four years, living in a dorm can add nearly $48,000 to your total cost of attendance. You might have to take out more federal or private student loans to cover it.

Renting an off-campus apartment, skipping your school’s meal plan and cooking your own food can be effective ways to cut your education costs. Although it can be hard to get approved for a lease on your own, using these tips can help you score the perfect place.

 

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