Living in a dorm is usually considered part of the college experience. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, just 12% of college students live in residence halls or group quarters.
It’s easy to understand why many students opt to live off campus. Dorms are often small and cramped — and incredibly expensive.
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. Luckily, there are ways to make it work.
5 ways to get an apartment without much income
Most landlords and rental companies have strict income requirements. As a student, you might have a small or nonexistent income. 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 your student loan funds. Here are five of them.
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. Such organizations tend to have strict rules regarding who qualifies for a unit. Most landlords and property management companies require your monthly income to be at least three times the rent.
In some cases, you’ll have better luck renting from an individual than from a company. Private landlords likely will be more understanding of your situation as a student and more willing to work with you. They also tend to have more relaxed guidelines and might not require a minimum income or a credit check.
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 cosigner on the lease. Unlike a roommate, who is 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.
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. But make sure you create a budget for all your education expenses first. Using too much of your student loans for housing could leave you short for the tuition bill.
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.
5. Sublet an apartment
Subletting occurs when a tenant rents out to another person the property that’s being leased to them. 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. And 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. 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.
Why living off campus is 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 $10,800 per year.
Over the course of four years, living in a dorm can add over $40,000 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 meals can be effective ways to cut your education costs.
Securing an apartment
Finding an off-campus apartment can help you save a significant amount of money, but it can be hard to get approved for a lease on your own. By using these tips, you can score the perfect place with just your student loans as income.
Once you do, find out how to furnish your home on a budget.
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