Students can choose to live in University Housing, Private Certified Housing and apartments and homes that are privately owned. There are many advantages of living on campus and studies have found that students who live on campus are more engaged and more likely to be successful students. Each individual must evaluate the pros and cons of living independently within or beyond the Campus District.
Set a Budget
While rent will be your largest expense, it not your only expense when living off campus. Expenses can add up.
- Identify your reliable sources of income (employment, financial aid, housing reimbursements, family support, etc.)
- Estimate your monthly expenses (tuition, debts, food, utilities, entertainment, etc.). It is generally recommended to spend less than 30% of income on rent.
Below are some basic guidelines about rent prices:
- Efficiency/1 bedroom: $400 - $700
- 2 Bedroom: $600 - $1200
- 3 Bedroom: $700 - $1500
- 4+ Bedroom: $900 - $2,200
It is important to know what utilities you will be responsible for before you sign the lease. Ask for specific clarification with landlords that advertise "utilities included." You may also want to be cautious with the word "supplies" instead of "pays." If the landlord pays the bills for heat and water, the lease should clearly state, "Lessor shall pay all bills for heat and water."
Below are estimates to help you plan:
- Internet service: estimate $25-$40 per month.
- Cable television: estimate $65 per month for approximately 70 channels or $13.50 per month for the basic service for about a dozen channels. Some package bundles exist for internet and cable combined for a discount.
- Water: estimate close to $25 for a one bedroom, or roughly $20 per person monthly.
- Gas and Electricity: This is difficult to estimate. Air conditioning, thermostat temperature setting, old windows, leaving lights on are all important factors in how much your electric and gas bill will cost. Contact Ameren for the average use of the previous tenant.
- Sanitary and Sewer Tax: Some landlords also charge for sanitary and sewer taxes (around $9 per person monthly).
- Recycling Fee: In Urbana the fee is $2.50 per apartment and in Champaign it is $2.60 per apartment. Some landlords pass this cost on to tenants.
- Other: Urbana has a rental registration fee for landlords and a few landlords pass that cost along to tenants. The actual cost should be not more than $1-$2 per month per apartment or $4 per month for a whole house
It is important to know the parking options and costs before you sign your lease. Below are some estimates to help you plan:
- $45 - $100 per month is the range of parking fees charged by most landlords for an off-street parking space in apartment buildings within 3/4 of a mile from the center of campus.
- In Champaign, for on-street parking near campus, you have to pay the City of Champaign approximately $650 per year for a permit for a specific space on the street.
- In Urbana, near campus, east of Lincoln Avenue and south of Green Street, on-street parking costs $135 per year for a permit to park on the street but you do not get a designated space.
- Parking on the University of Illinois Campus: Visit the UI Parking Department for more information.
- Set your budget before you begin looking at options, so that you do not get overextended.
- Use the Housing Cost Comparison Worksheet (pdf) to compare University Housing Residence Halls and privately owned apartments.
Before you choose an apartment and sign a lease with someone, it is wise to get to know them. Make sure you are compatible with them. Once you sign the lease, you and your roommate(s) will be legally responsible for the rent, fees, utility bills, etc. The presence of a roommate conflict will not excuse you from this legal obligation to the landlord. If one of you fails to pay the rent, the landlord can, and usually will, sue all of you. If the person who did not pay leaves, the roommates who paid their rent will face a lawsuit for eviction. Even if the landlord does not evict, expect that all of the roommates, including the one who left, will have the bad debt listed on their credit records. Very few landlords anywhere in the United States will rent to you if your credit record shows that you owe a landlord rent.
This Roommate Agreement Contract (pdf) will not protect you from joint liability to the landlord, but it can be helpful for deciding in advance what you’ll do if one person leaves before the lease is up, and for reminding each other what you agreed to before a conflict occurs.
Sometimes landlords provide individual leases for one person’s share of the apartment. In these cases, you would not be responsible for your roommates’ rent. However, this can cause different issues for tenants:
- If your roommate leaves, the landlord can replace your roommate with a stranger.
- There is no guarantee that your roommate will be a student, someone your age, or someone you find compatible.
- You will still have joint responsibilities related to utility payments.
- You will still share joint liability for damages to the common areas of the apartment.
- In most cases, the management can relocate you to a different apartment at any time during the lease period.
Conflicts with roommates can occur. Below are some tips to help you mange the conflict and come to a mutually beneficial solution:
- Get everyone involved in the conflict together.
- Each roommate should take a turn describing their perceptions of the situation, how they feel about it, and what they want.
- Come to an agreement about what the conflict is about.
- Review the roommate agreement you made prior to the occurrence of the conflict.
- Brainstorm possible solutions. Everyone should agree on a resolution.
- Talk about what changes are needed to bring about the acceptable solution.
- Make a plan of action to make the necessary changes.
- Set a future date to reevaluate the situation and renegotiate as necessary.
Try to avoid these common pitfalls in conflict:
- Avoid blaming each other.
- Talk about actions not personality traits.
- Do not psychoanalyze your roommate.
- Do not put people on the spot or embarrass them.
If you are struggling to find solutions, consider utilizing the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. They provide mediation services and advice to roommates experiencing issues.
Questions to ask each other before you decide to rent an apartment together:
- Is it possible that any of your potential roommates might study abroad next year or graduate in December or leave for student teaching or engineering co-op?
Discuss this before you sign a lease together. Are you confident that each of your potential roommates would continue to pay his or her share of the rent if a replacement tenant cannot be found? Don't assume that the replacement tenant will be someone you know. If you find one at all, it will probably be a stranger. Please know that it is very, very hard to find replacement tenants.
- If a roommate does not come back to school next year or moves out at any time before the lease ends:
Are you confident that each of your potential roommates would continue to pay his or her share of the rent – no matter what happens? Many students do not return to school after the first year because of their grades. They either get a job or transfer to an easier school. Sometimes, they leave because they can't afford to pay for school. Will they be able to afford to pay for an apartment in which they are not living?
Would you expect a roommate who leaves to continue to pay an equal share of all utilities? Some utilities (for example, roommate keeps paying a share of the power and water bills but not for cable TV and internet)?
Is everyone in your group willing to accept a stranger as a subtenant to replace an absent roommate? Are there any limitations on who that person can be (for example, must be a certain gender or must be a student or within a certain age range)?
- Most leases are for an entire year. What do you plan to do about summer rent?
Have you discussed whether you want to try to find subtenants (which carries some risk, namely that subtenants will do damage for which original tenants end up paying) or whether you will just pay rent for an empty apartment or your empty space in an apartment where one of your roommates stays for the summer?
If you find one or two people to sublet but do not find one person to replace each of the original tenants, how will you apply the payments from the subtenants – share equally among all original tenants or will each person who found someone get the money paid by the person they found?
If any one of you stays in the apartment for the summer, will they be willing to live with subtenants who are strangers?
How will you handle division of utility bills? For example, if one of you stays for summer, one of you finds a subtenant and two of you leave without finding subtenants, will the utility bills be divided 4 ways, 2 ways or will you devise some arrangement for the absent people to contribute to the cost of summer utilities but pay a lower percentage of each bill than the two living in the apartment?
Students tend to live in Urbana, Champaign, Savoy, and even the surrounding towns. You can use the information below to determine what may be the best option for you.
- Identify your needs.
There are many housing options. Your search will be easier if you identify your needs first.
- House, condominium, or apartment?
- Do you want roommates? How many?
- What is your transportation to campus? Is distance from campus an issue?
- Furnished or unfurnished?
- Accessibility needs?
- What amenities do you like?
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
- Length of the lease?
- Pet Friendly?
- Choose your location:
Research the area. You can utilize the following to help you make an informed choice:
- Crime reports
- City ordinances
- Transportation services
- Proximity to campus, work, places of worship, recreation, food, etc.
- Look at options that meet your criteria and budget.
Utilize Housing Explorer to identify options advertised specifically to students. However, there are many ways to identify housing options including asking friends, local newspapers, ads in the Daily Illini, and online search engines.
- View the EXACT apartment you may want to rent.
Call landlords and schedule appointments to view the inside of several apartments.
Utilize the Apartment Hunting Checklist (pdf). If you will have a roommate(s), all parties should see the space. If you like the place, ask for a copy of the application and lease to take home and read. You may be pressured to sign immediately, but it is important to take the time you need to make sure that this is the right space for you.