Additional Off-Campus Housing Information
This page will provide helpful resources to assist you during your housing search. The earlier you start researching the better your chances will be to finding housing.
You are encouraged to put a list together of potential apartments or property listings that you are interested in. Call the property manager or private landlord. Schedule an appointment to visit the property.
Follow the steps below to make the most of your time
- Go online and do the research
- Select a neighborhood(s)
- Create a list of housing options that interest you
- Contact the property manager/landlord to schedule an appointment to see the property
- Visit and complete a walk-through of entire property
- Make sure that property and landlord are trustworthy
- Read the lease carefully and know your rights
- Sign and enjoy your new home 🙂
When & Where Do I look for listings?
Your housing search will primarily be done on-line. I suggest you use the time before you visit to research neighborhoods, listings, apartment buildings, transportation options and schedule appointments prior to your arrival.
Popular Housing Search Websites
- Hot Pads: http://hotpads.com/DC/Washington
- Craig’s List: http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/
- Zillow: http://www.zillow.com/washington-dc/rent/
- Urban Igloo: http://www.urbanigloo.com
- PadMapper: http://www.padmapper.com/
- ApartmentList.com: http://www.apartmentlist.com
- Washington City Paper: http://classifieds.washingtoncitypaper.com/washington/
- My Apartment Map:http://www.myapartmentmap.com/colleges/dc/university_of_the_district_of_columbia/.
- My Cheap Apartment: http://www.mycheapapartments.com/
None of these online sites are endorsed by the University of the District of Columbia.
Choose a Neighborhood to Begin Your Search. Get out and walk around the neighborhoods where you are interested in living in, during both the daytime and evening. This is also a great way to find vacancies – look for signs on the lawn in the window or walk-in to open apartment buildings. Look to see what stores are around, where the metro/bus stops are located, are there people out? Do you feel comfortable/safe? Narrow down your search to what neighborhood you would like to live in to simplify your search for housing.
Things to Look for When Visiting a Property
Make notes about the various properties you visit, since they will all tend to blur after you visit a few. Write down distinctive features that will help you to recall a particular place. Be observant and pay special attention to safety and maintenance features.
- Is it a safe area? Visit at night with a friend to get a feel for the neighborhood. See if the door has a deadbolt lock and if windows are secured with locks. All sliding glass doors should have a bar or a stick of wood in the inside door path to prevent them from being opened from outside.
- Check for safety measures in case of fire. Is there a fire escape? Does the place have one or more smoke detectors?
- If you are renting a house or townhouse, check the basement. Notice the heating/air conditioning unit and size of the hot water tank (especially if a number of people are sharing). If you are renting an apartment, does it have its own thermostat?
- Check the plumbing — Flush the toilet and run water in the sinks and tubs to observe flow and drainage of water. Notice any faucet drips and/or leaking pipes–especially if you are responsible for the water bill! Run the garbage disposal to see if it works.
- Make sure the appliances are in good working order and that they have the necessary accessories such as a broiler pan for the oven. Turn on all burners on the stove and the oven to see if they work, and check the refrigerator to see if it is cold.
- Contact the appropriate utility companies to find out what the average utility bills were for previous tenants.
- How thin or thick are the walls? Can you hear the neighbors? Can they hear you?
- Observe the electrical fixtures for any frayed wiring. Turn on the lights. Check to see if there are sufficient overhead lights or if you will need to supplement the lighting with lamps. Check to see if entrances are well lit at night.
- Is there sufficient closet space?
- Do you observe any bug or rodent infestations? Check the cabinets under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
- Take a look at how the premises are kept.
- Appearances of entrances and hallways are good indications of the type of maintenance you can expect.
- Examine the condition of the walls (paint, plaster, etc.). Will they be repainted before you move in? Get it in writing before you sign the lease!
- Talk to neighbors and tenants if possible and ask them what they think of the premises, the neighborhood, and the landlord. Check with the Off Campus Housing Office to see if former tenants have registered any complaints against the landlord.
- If the property does not have its own washer/dryer, does the building have a safe, well-lit laundry area?
- If furnished, what is the condition of the furniture?
- Notice if there are any unpleasant odors such as mildew, smoke, or pet odor
Tenant’s Bill of Rights information sheet courtesy of the Office of Tenant Advocate (OTA): http://ota.dc.gov/
It is important that you be informed of your rights as a tenant.
Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)
1100 4th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 8:30-4:30 pm; Thursday 9:30-4:30 pm
Waterfront-SEU metro station (green line)
DCRA issues licenses and permits, conducts inspections, enforces building, housing, and safety codes, regulates land use and development, and provides consumer education and advocacy
•Residential Inspections (DCRA)
•Tenant Survival Guide, 7th Edition/Spring 2008
The Equal Rights Center: Fair Housing
11 Dupont Circle, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20036
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00 pm
Dupont Circle metro station (red line)
The ERC offers training, performs advocacy, counsels individuals, helps victims file complaints, conducts research and develops and executes investigations to stop illegal discrimination in housing.
Landlord Tenant Resource Center
510 4th Street, NW
Court Building B, Room 115
Washington, DC 20001
Office Hours: 9:15-12:00 pm Monday –Friday
Judiciary Square metro (red line)
Volunteer attorneys provide free legal assistance to both landlords and tenants.
The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has created a new website, as a collegiate off campus housing initiative.
Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA)
1250 U Street, NW, 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:45-4:45 pm
U Street/African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo metro station (green and yellow lines)
The office advocates for, educates, and provides outreach for tenants in DC.
Superior Court of DC: Housing Conditions Calendar
The Housing Conditions Calendar allows tenants to sue landlords for D.C. Housing Code violations on an expedited basis. To initiate a case, a tenant-plaintiff must file a complaint and summons with the Civil Actions Branch Clerk’s Office, Moultrie Courthouse, Room 5000.
Protecting yourself as a Tenant
It is important to inspect the property yourself with the landlord and a witness. Complete a walkthrough form with your landlord to document all existing damages and safety hazards. Note: Both you and the landlord should sign and date both documents and have this literature included in the lease agreement. If you are seriously considering renting a property, it is encouraged that you conduct a walk through inspection before signing the lease. A walk through inspection is intended to protect you from being financially responsible for existing conditions that were in the apartment/home before you moved in.
You may also want to videotape or take photographs to document your descriptions. These documents will prevent the landlord from trying to charge you for existing damages when you move out. Having your landlord sign and include a disclosure form in the lease is also a good way to protect yourself as a tenant from any damages made to the property before you moved in.
Signing a Lease
When you have found the accommodation you wish to rent, discuss the terms of the lease with the landlord. It is to your advantage to have a lease in writing. A written lease protects both you and your landlord by specifying the rights and obligations of each party. Any verbal agreements are difficult to enforce or to contest if problems develop. Read the lease carefully before signing! A lease is a legally binding document. If there are any terms or conditions that seem unreasonable or unclear, discuss them with the landlord. You may wish to take the lease to a legal aid service or an attorney to have it reviewed. This may be worth the expense in the long run.
Any changes or additions to the lease should be agreed to by both you and your landlord. They should appear in the lease before it is signed, and should be initialed by both you and the landlord. A rider or addendum may be attached to the lease and should be signed and dated by both parties. If the landlord has agreed to make repairs, for example, this statement should be included in the addendum.
Some landlords require a co-signer on a lease if a student is under 21 years of age and has no prior rental references. After you have signed the lease, the landlord may mail it to whomever you designate (usually a parent) to obtain another signature. Remember the co-signer will be held responsible if the rent is not paid or if any problems arise.
Office of Residence Life and Off-Campus Housing Services
Student Center, Room 126
Housing Community Hotline:
202.274.5050 (Office of Public Safety)