Most off-campus housing is rented on a contract or lease basis. This means that as a "renter" you agree to live in the unit for a stated period of time -- most often leases are for 12-month periods, although some locations near campus do offer shorter lease periods. During that designated period of time, you are legally responsible for all rent payments and any other charges as outlined in your lease agreement. This is required whether you are living there or not (including vacations and holiday breaks), unless otherwise arranged with your landlord (the owner of the apartment building or facility where you are renting).
Leases are written agreements between the renter and the landlord. It is very important that you read the lease and understand its terms and conditions before signing it. Some leases may not permit you to have pets, children, etc., which is why it is important to understand your restrictions prior to signing. Once you have signed a lease, you are legally obligated to abide by the terms and conditions as outlined. If you have any questions about the lease, consult an ISS advisor before signing. Also, be sure to obtain a signed copy of the lease for your records, and do not rely on a verbal agreement with a landlord -- be sure you have everything in writing.
Occasionally, you may find an opportunity to "sublet" an apartment. Subletting means that an individual who is renting a room or apartment rents that unit to another person. This typically happens when students decide to study abroad, travel for an extended period of time, or cannot fulfill the terms of their lease.
Any subletting arrangement must be carefully investigated before agreeing to it -- both as a renter and a subletter. Please consult an ISS advisor with any questions you may have before agreeing to any subletting contract.
Most off-campus rental properties require a security deposit and the first month of rent at the time that the lease is signed. A security deposit is a fee paid to a landlord that protects them against damage or non-payment by the renter, and is very common in the United States. The security deposit typically equals one to two months of rent, but may be up to three months of rent. This is required before moving into the apartment. Though it is usually returned in whole or in part when the lease expires, you should plan accordingly in order to secure housing. Any damages to the apartment, necessary cleaning, and/or repair charges will be deducted from your security deposit.