Where Do I Start?
Finding housing in a foreign country, or even an unfamiliar city can be daunting. So where do you start? First, you’ll want to decide what kind of housing you’re looking for, your rent budget for each month, as well as distance from the campus. You have several potential options for type of housing (house, apartment, condo, duplex, single room in a house). These are just a few different types of houses you might want to familiarize yourself with to find what will work best for you. But once you’ve decided, how do you find them? Often times, apartment complexes and homes for rent will advertise that they have units or homes for lease. Or just give them a call! Most apartments also have websites so you can browse floor plans, pricing, and amenities. The UT Health Office of Student Life also provides a list of apartments that are available for lease, with most of them in the campus area.
Most apartment and home rentals will require a security deposit to ensure that tenant responsibilities and potential damages are covered and/or as incentive for the tenant to maintain the property well. Note: It is the tenant’s responsibility to clean the residence, but the responsibility for outdoor maintenance may rest on the property manager or complex. Typically, a property owner or leasing office will ask for first and last month rent as a security deposit. Be prepared to have this amount to pay up front upon signing a lease agreement. If there are no major damages or repairs to be done upon move-out, you will usually get your security deposit back. However, often times apartments will charge you for repainting or cleaning upon move out. Remember, always read the lease to understand the agreement and responsibilities of both parties before signing any documents.
Know Before You Sign
Every housing situation is different, but here are a few more tips to help you expect the unexpected:
- Most apartments and homes are not furnished, but it’s worth asking about when doing your own research
- Not all housing units will have a washer and dryer included. Some may have hook-ups where you can attach your own, or they may have communal laundry rooms located on the premises. If those details are not listed on the website or info sheet, ask!
- Often times there is an monthly income requirement of 3 times the rent rate, which you must provide proof of. However, there might be adjusted standards for students, but it does vary from place to place.
- Requesting a tour of the unit or house you want to rent is beneficial because the photos you see may not be an accurate portrayal of the unit or complex/neighborhood.
- If an apartment unit or house in a neighborhood is repeatedly loud and/or disruptive, neighbors can file a noise complaint with the police, who will usually come out to the residence in question and address the situation.
While choosing your housing and comparing different rent rates, keep in mind that almost every monthly rate does not include utilities. What are utilities? Typically, your utilities will consist of your gas, energy, and water bills. These bills will be paid based on your usage, in addition to your flat monthly rate. All energy in San Antonio is through CPS Energy, which is where you will call to set up and activate your unit or home’s account in your name. Just like your rent payment, if you do not pay your utilities in a timely manner, they are at risk of being shut off, potentially leaving you without lighting, air conditioning, heating, etc. Sometimes, apartments will bill you for your utilities themselves, but other places may have you pay the company directly.
In some cases, apartment complexes will charge trash services and pest control fees. If you live on a pond or other natural area, they might also charge a maintenance fee to maintain the grounds. Be sure to read your rental agreement thoroughly, because it might include community standards and guidelines such as trash clean-up, quiet hours, fines for different offenses, etc. which could contribute to your utility costs.
Internet, Phone, Television
Internet and phone services are not typically included in rental agreements, which you will have to get set up and pay for yourself. However, some companies have discounted or special offers and plans for international visitors. You can usually bundle your phone, Internet, and television services together with most companies, and this also may require a contract.
There are many different plans for phones and Internet, so be sure to check all the options available to find the one that best suits your needs.
Here are a few options previously used by international visitors (but this is a non-comprehensive list):
Generally, rentals will require a certain amount of renter’s insurance, however, the amount varies. Renter’s insurance is liability coverage for major damages, but renter’s insurance helps you, too! You will estimate the value of your belongings in case of fire, theft, or damage in your rental during your lease. Read your lease agreement carefully to find out the exact amount required.
Having a roommate in the U.S. is very common, but not required. Depending on your housing choices, you could have several roommates, or none.
Things to Consider
Roommates can often help ease the financial burden that housing can sometimes place on international visitors and natives, especially those attending school full-time. However, there are many factors to consider when deciding if a roommate is best for you, and how to choose.
- Cost: Will a roommate help lower your personal rent payment? In student housing, sometimes the leases are separate, and having a roommate doesn’t necessarily lower the cost. In other places, the rent may be split equally among all tenants.
- Space: How big is your residence? How many bedrooms are there? Can it fit another person comfortably? Also, what kind of personal space do you need?
- Relationship: Take time to consider the social and health aspects to having a roommate. Would it add to your happiness, or be detrimental to your mental and emotional health? Consider your relationship with your potential roommate.
Living with a roommate can be very beneficial, but there are potential downsides. Consider how you could establish boundaries and standards in your residence between you and your roommate(s) to determine cleaning, cooking, noise level, and other routine details. It is not unheard of to establish a roommate contract to help address and agree on certain things clearly for all tenants. However, there is no guarantee that all roommates will adhere to a contract.
Students and international visitors are able to utilize the UT Health Intranet and Student Life housing section to post roommate ads. This might assist in your roommate search.