Live Off Campus

Deciding to live off campus is something you should take seriously. An off-campus apartment can be an amazing new home — but it could also cost you a lot more than you think and cause problems with your roommates. We’re here to help you understand these issues, so you can make the right decisions and enjoy your time living off campus.

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Planning to Live Off Campus

Step 1. Consider All of Your Costs

Rent is just one cost when you live off-campus. Don’t forget about your utilities — especially heat. Ask your landlord if utilities are included in your rent, and if so, how much control you have over their use. If utilities are not included, ask to see past bills, or contact the utility companies directly.

Talk with your roommates about how you will be splitting utilities and other costs. Not everybody may want the same internet service, for example.

Potential Added Expenses

  • Utilities (gas, electric, oil, water)
  • Laundry
  • Telephone
  • Cable or satellite TV
  • Internet
  • Furniture (don’t just take mattresses and furniture you find on the curb, as they may be invested with bugs)
  • Appliances
  • Household goods (pots and pans, light bulbs, etc.)
  • Sewer service
  • Garbage pick-up
  • Renters insurance

Your Up-Front Costs

Before you move in, many landlords require the first month’s rent, a security deposit (often equal to one month’s rent), plus the last month’s rent. You may also have installation fees for cable or satellite service, internet, telephone service, heat and electricity.

Protect Your Security Deposit

Before you move in, your landlord will probably ask for a security deposit. Landlords may use this money to pay for any damage to the apartment, cover unpaid rent and take care of clean-up costs after you move out.

If you want to get your security deposit back when you move out, it’s important to document any damage when you move in.

  • Take pictures or video of everything (including the inside of appliances, ceilings, walls, floors, and hallways), so you can prove what condition it was in when you moved in. You can also use our Renter’s Checklist to complete a detailed list of any damage. Be specific — even the cost of relatively small things such as nail holes in the walls, burns in the carpet and cracks in the windows could be deducted from your security deposit if you can’t prove they were there before you moved in.
  • Once you have a list of all the damage, write the date on this list, and then either review it in person with your landlord, or send it to them (you can mail it “return receipt” to prove it was received). Make sure you keep a copy.
  • After you move out, designate a member of your house or apartment to keep this information, and follow up with the landlord if they do not return your security deposit (or offer an explanation) within a reasonable time period. Sometimes tenants aren’t even aware that a landlord is withholding the security deposit until everyone has left town.

Do Not Pay with Cash

Use a check or money order to pay your share of the rent or utilities, even if your roommates are close friends of yours. If there is ever a question or dispute, it may be difficult to prove that you paid someone in cash.

Step 2. Choose Your Roommates

Having a mutual agreement about the “rules” for your room or apartment can help you handle many common issues. Even if your roommate is your best friend, you will want to discuss how life as roommates will work.

How to Write a Roommate Agreement

For each of the areas, talk with your roommate, agree upon a procedure and write it down.

  • What kind of communication you will have
  • Quiet time
  • Guests
  • Guest hours
  • Room or apartment cleanliness
  • Borrowing (food, clothing, etc.)
  • Stereo, radio and TV use
  • Personal habits (including drinking and smoking)
  • Other specific topics
  • For those in apartments: doing dishes, purchasing household items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, and shared food items (is everything in the refrigerator fair game, or should all food items be marked?)

Agree on Subletting During the Summer

Most leases are 12-month contracts, but many students tend to leave for the summer. Make sure all roommates know who will be responsible for paying the rent. If someone wants to sublet the apartment for the summer, make sure everyone (including the landlord) is comfortable with this arrangement. If a roommate or anyone else on the lease does not follow through on their financial or legal obligations, you may still be held responsible.

Sign a Roommate Contract

We strongly urge you to sign a roommate contract with all roommates, even if you are friends prior to living together. A Roommate Contract lets you be very clear on expectations from the very beginning, which often helps you avoid conflicts later.

Choosing Your Apartment

Step 3. Find an Off-Campus Apartment

We encourage you to use our off-campus housing website, which only lists properties that have passed a safety inspection by a New York State certified inspector within the last three years, or a property in which the owner lives on site. Many off-campus apartments — especially around South Campus — do not meet these minimum standards. Please use caution if you are searching on your own.

UB does not endorse any particular off-campus housing options. Listings are limited to those properties whose owners demonstrate they have passed a safety inspection in the past 36 months, or a property in which the owner lives on site. All housing on the UB site must have passed a New York State Building Code assessment.

Step 4. Inspect an Off-Campus Apartment

Call the landlord and set up a time to see the property. Ask as many questions as necessary. If the landlord refuses to answer your questions or is evasive, you may want to look for a different apartment.

If a landlord agrees to make improvements, make sure you get it in writing, along with a specific timeline for completion. Visit the apartment at different times of the day and evening, to make sure it is well-lit and safe. If you are renting from out of town, schedule an appointment to see it when you arrive in Buffalo.

Signing a lease without seeing the property yourself is not recommended. We encourage you to visit any property you are considering renting. If you need a place to stay in Buffalo while you visit properties, you can find accommodations at VisitBuffaloNiagara.com.

Remember, you may be friendly with your landlord, but that doesn’t mean your landlord is your friend. Research their reputation before you sign your lease.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Landlord

Appliances and Furnishings

  • Are appliances included and in good repair (stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher)?
  • Is the unit furnished?
  • Is there laundry on-site? Is it coin-operated?
  • Where are the circuit breakers or fuse box?
  • Are heating and cooling systems and hot water heater in good condition?

Utilities

  • Are utilities covered in rent? Which utility companies do you use?
  • What are average monthly costs for utilities? (Ask for copies of the bills from the previous tenants or contact the utility companies yourself.)

Parking

  • If there is not off-street parking, is there on-street parking and does it alternate?
  • Is there a street parking ban during winter months?

Maintenance

  • Will you supply garbage containers and recycling bins? Where are they stored?
  • When is garbage collected?
  • Who is going to cut the grass, shovel the snow and take out the trash? Will your landlord take care of this or will it be your responsibility?
  • Do you live nearby? Can you quickly respond to emergencies?

Pets

  • Are pets allowed? Is there an additional security deposit required?

Safety

  • Can I have a copy of the certificate of occupancy? Look for one that is less than three years old. (A certificate of occupancy demonstrates that the apartment has been inspected by a certified inspector in the last three years.)

Move-In Date

  • If you sign a lease in April for an apartment August 1st, how will you be certain the apartment will be ready to move into on time? How will the landlord be held accountable for any repairs needed prior to your moving in?

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

New York State law requires a smoke detector in each bedroom, and a carbon monoxide detector on every floor where there are sleeping areas.

Illegal basement and attic bedrooms

It is against the law for a landlord to rent a bedroom in a basement or an attic, unless it is equipped with a fire escape. If you are sleeping in one of these places, ask your landlord to have a fire escape installed. Ladders, including the type dropped from a window, are not acceptable fire escapes from a third floor attic. If the landlord refuses, contact Off-Campus Student Services.

Step 5. Read Your Lease Carefully Before You Sign

A lease is a binding legal document, and not all leases are the same. Make sure you read every word of your lease — don’t just skim it.

  • If you have questions about your lease, make sure they’re answered
  • Never let anyone pressure you into signing a lease
  • Never sign a lease without physically inspecting the apartment
  • Have your lease reviewed for free by Sub-Board Legal Services, a student-run organization with an office in the Student Union

List Damage and Repairs Needed as Part of Your Lease

Walk through the property with the landlord and inspect it carefully before you sign the lease. You should document, videotape or photograph any damage throughout the apartment. Make a list that outlines all of the repairs needed, no matter how small, and have these written into the contract along with a specific timeline for completion.

In Your New Home

Step 6. Get Renters Insurance

If your belongings are stolen or destroyed in a fire, your landlord isn’t responsible for replacing them. If a guest falls in your apartment, or your dog bites someone, you could be responsible for someone else’s medical bills. In these cases — and many others — renters insurance could save you thousands of dollars.

Renters insurance is for anyone who rents a home, house or apartment. Even though you may not own the place where you live, you still need insurance to protect your belongings, and to protect yourself from legal problems. While your landlord or condo association might have insurance, it only protects the building, not your belongings.

To get renters insurance, talk to insurance agents, who can provide quotes and sell you a policy. Make sure you ask about:

  • Coverage for personal property against theft, fire and wind damage
  • Personal liability for accidents
  • Damage to other people's property that is in your care
  • Living expenses, if you're forced to leave your home during disasters or repairs

Step 7. Be a Good Neighbor

It's important to be a responsible member of the community. Remember — not all of your neighbors may be college students. Be considerate, especially with:

  • Not playing loud music
  • Keeping noise at a reasonable level
  • Not smoking outside, especially near someone else's windows
  • Cleaning up your yard

Know Where You Can Park

If you own a car, make sure you know the parking rules in your neighborhood, including restrictions on parking in the street during the winter. Check with your local municipality for details.

Step 8. Be Safe and Enjoy Life Off Campus

Once you're in your new home, remember that you're still part of the UB community. We're here to help you be safe, eat well, get around and have fun.

Step 9: Connect With Your Local Community

Join a Block Club

Help keep your neighborhood safe, connect with your community and show your UB pride. These are just a few of the benefits of joining your local block club. To get started, simply contact the leader listed on this page.

If your street does not have a block club and you’re interested in joining one, contact David Benders, president of the University Heights Collaborative.

 

Custer Street Block Club

   
Lynn Hertienne laceymom2276@verizon.net
Heath Street Block Club    
Candy Hayes chayes197@gmail.com
Lisbon/Highgate/ E. Winspear (affiliated with Northrup Pl.)  
Lena Vertino lenavertino@verizon.net
Merrimac Block Club    
Bob Sprague RobInBflo@aol.com
Jesse Schmidbauer jesseschmidbauer@gmail.com
Nicholson Ave. Block Club    
Jo Schweitzer schweitz@buffalo.edu
Judy Torrico JudyTorrico@aol.com
Rose Dolski rdolski@roadrunner.com
Northrup Pl. Block Club    
Linda Kunz nfdlouis@gmail.com
University Heights Collaborative Board    
Mickey Vertino president@ourheights.com
Upper Montrose Block Club    
Mike Rumfola mrumfola@rocketmail.com
Martha Meegan montroseblockclub@gmail.com
Lynne Mannella lmannella2@yahoo.com
West Winspear Block Club    
Tracy Jackson dr.traci@verizon.net
James E. Rozanski jrozanski@yahoo.com

Block Club Meeting Schedule

Name

Meeting Location

BABA - Bailey Avenue Business Association, Inc.  

3163 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14215-1623
Tel: 716.833.0489
President: Abrahim Cisse'

Kensington Bailey NHS
995 Kensington Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14215
UDBCC - University District Block Club Coalition, Inc.
PO Box 1658
Buffalo, NY 14215
President: Annie Cheatham
Kensington Bailey NHS
995 Kensington Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14215
UHC - University Heights Collaborative, Inc.
President: Mickie Vertino
Gloria J. Parks Community Center
3242 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
E District Police
2767 Bailey Ave
Buffalo, NY 14215
Contact: CPO Threats or Floyd/Chief Menza
(716) 851-4416
Edward Saunders Community Center
2777 Bailey Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14215
Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Community Council
Prennessia Salder-Lambert
(716) 848-3430 W
(716) 449-6292 M
Westminster Charter
24 Westminster Ave
Buffalo, NY 14215

Rasheed N.C. Wyatt
University District Councilmember
City Hall, Room 1508
Buffalo, NY 14202
(716) 851-5165

Remember to contact the University District Council Office for future Community Stakeholders Meetings.

Life or Death Safety Information About Fires and Carbon Monoxide

Especially if you’re living in an off-campus apartment, being aware of fire safety — and knowing how to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning — may save your life.

View life-saving tips

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

New York State law requires a smoke detector in each bedroom, and a carbon monoxide detector on every floor where there are sleeping areas.

What can you do to be safer in your home?

  • Check the batteries in your smoke detectors at the start of each semester; most student fire fatalities occur in off-campus student housing
  • Know where your fire extinguishers are
  • Be careful with cigarettes and candles
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets
  • Know that space heaters are not an appropriate replacement for a furnace or boiler

Illegal basement and attic bedrooms

It is against the law for a landlord to rent a bedroom in a basement or an attic, unless it is equipped with a fire escape. If you are sleeping in one of these places, ask your landlord to have a fire escape installed. Ladders, including the type dropped from a window, are not acceptable fire escapes from a third floor attic. If the landlord refuses, contact Off-Campus Student Services.

Need Help?

University at Buffalo
101 Allen Hall, South Campus
Buffalo, NY 14214

Phone: (716) 829-3541; Fax: (716) 829-2290

About Our Services

The Off-Campus Student Services provides assistance to UB students with landlord/tenant problems. While all forms and information packets are reviewed to be reasonably accurate, there is a chance that the governing law has changed since the information's publishing. If you plan to take any action based on information you found at this web site, you should first consult an attorney. Your questions and facts are specific to your case. The information, forms and all other parts of this web site were not prepared in anticipation of any questions you might have. Therefore, they cannot substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Again, you must consult an attorney before taking any action based on information found here.