Boston Is Calling. Find Your Place In It.
We'll help you get started with finding an apartment or house and scheduling your move, so you can get settled in and get ready to make your mark.
Where to Start
Boston is a wonderful city with many interesting and diverse neighborhoods. And because of its public transportation, many find it's convenient and less expensive to live outside Boston.
View the IHP's Off-Campus Housing site to sort housing options by price and location.
Additionally, the Multicultural Affairs Office and MGB Housing Search can serve as valuable resources.
Realtors can help you figure out which neighborhoods you like and can afford. Be aware that most agents could charge a finder's fee (this fee is often equal to one month’s rent.)
Subletting works in two ways: Either you can lease all or part of the leased premises to another person; or, you can be the person subletting the apartment. Check with the landlord on what's allowed.
The ins and outs of area housing
The monthly cost of rent is driven by the amenities that an apartment offers as well as the neighborhood it is located in. 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.
Most rental apartments require both the first and last month’s rent when you sign the lease. Make sure you have four months' rent upfront when you sign the lease. This includes the first and last month’s rent, a security deposit, and a renter’s fee (if applicable).
It’s important to create a budget for yourself so that you are living within your means. Transportation costs, utilities, and food are just a few things to think about when you are creating a budget. Keep in mind that the number of roommates you have affects how many ways you'll split the cost of utilities.
Note: The MGH Institute 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.
When you work with a realtor, they will most likely charge a fee that can equal up to a full month’s rent. Fees are divided into three categories: full fee, half fee, and no fee.
- Full fee means that the renter pays the entire fee, equal to one month’s rent.
- Half fee means that the full fee is split between the landlord and the renter.
- No fee means that the landlord pays the realtor or the realtor owns the building.
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.
Note: It is illegal for a landlord to charge any other up-front fees, including:
- A deposit to hold the apartment for a prospective tenant.
- A damage deposit or fee to allow a tenant to have a pet.
- A finder's fee for renting an apartment that the landlord owns unless he is a licensed realtor.
Getting a roommate is one way to lower your housing costs. However, it's important to choose roommates carefully. Not all strangers make good roommates, but less obviously, not all friends make good roommates.
If you have an apartment to share or need a roommate, you can browse other students and housing options on the IHP's Off-Campus Housing site.
We recommend you screen roommate compatibility using these questions:
- Have you ever had a roommate before? What, if anything, bothered you about your past roommates? Did you fight with your roommate a lot? About what?
- Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or another friend who will be staying here?
- Do you smoke? Drink? If yes to any, how often?
- Do you stay out late on weekdays?
- Did/do you have any credit problems?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your occupation?
- What do you like to watch on television? What music do you listen to?
- What are your cooking and cleaning habits?
Whatever you ask, in the end, you should feel very comfortable with your future roommate.
Note: Make sure your roommate co-signs the lease. If your name is the only one on the lease, then you shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for the apartment from a financial standpoint. If your roommate can't afford to pay, you'll be legally responsible for paying their share of the rent.
Planning Your Move
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
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
- Set up parking for your moving truck (in Boston)
- Ask your landlord about trash and recycling pick-up
- 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 the IHP via IOnline
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 the IHP via IOnline. Complete the USPS official change of address form to forward your mail appropriately
- If necessary, make arrangements to store furniture or personal belongings
Many sections of on-street parking in Boston are for residents only. Easily apply for a permit through Boston.gov.
You can apply for a MA driver's license, register a out-of-state vehicle, and more at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. See what's needed on their website.
Zipcar is a by-the-hour car rental option available in the Greater Boston area. Current students are eligible for discounts.
Be On The Lookout
A word of caution from the MGH Police Department:
The number of fake rental scams on Craigslist and other online classifieds continues to grow, with new aliases appearing daily.
Scammers use a variety of email accounts and/or post ads under anonymous Craigslist addresses. They use stolen photos, fake names, and often assume the identities of previous victims.
Never, under any circumstance, wire money at the request of any prospective "landlord" via Western Union, Moneygram, or any other wire service (even if they tell you to wire the fund to a friend's or relative's name "to be safe").
Never send a scan of your passport or other ID. These thieves will use your identity to scam others.
Should you feel that you are the victim of a scam, we recommend you take the following actions:
- Report the incident to your local law enforcement agency.
- If you are affiliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital or the MGH Institute, please contact MGH Police & Security.
- Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus and request a fraud alert be placed on your account.
- File a claim with The Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Review the Federal Trade Commission’s web page concerning identity theft.