Welcome to Boston

Housing in the Boston Area

William James College students often post housing needs on William James College’s electronic housing board. To access the housing board click here.

Housing in Boston in the Fall is scarce and expensive, for this reason we suggest you begin your search early. The downtown section of Boston tends to be high priced, while the surrounding communities tend to be more abundant and affordable. The great majority of students live in communities such as: Allston, Jamaica Plain, Brighton, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Hyde Park or suburbs such as Brookline, Dedham, Newton, Cambridge, Somerville, to name a few.

Expenses

Rental cost for apartments in Boston can be expensive. With very few exceptions, there is no limit to how much rent a landlord can charge for an apartment. Monthly rent is one of the largest expenses to consider when living off-campus, but there are many others, such as up-front fees, utilities, furnishings, and commuting costs, that factor into the overall cost.

Up-Front Fees:

  • Landlords may charge several up-front fees: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and a lock fee to cover the expense of replacing the previous tenant’s lock and key.
  • It is illegal for a landlord to charge any other upfront fees including a deposit to hold the apartment for a prospective tenant, a damage deposit or fee to allow pets, or a finder’s fee, unless he is a licensed realtor.
  • If you are using a realtor to find an apartment, you may be required to pay a broker’s fee equivalent to one month’s rent.

Utilities:

  • A large determining factor in utility cost is what utilities the landlord will pay and what utilities the tenant will pay. It should be clearly stated in the lease who is responsible for which utilities.
  • Most tenants do not have to pay for water usage. However if the landlord has installed sub-meters to measure the actual water usage and has installed low-flow fixtures, the tenant may be required to pay for water.
  • Some apartments may include heat and hot water. In apartments that are heated by the landlord, the heat must be on from September 15th through June 15th. The temperature must not be less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and 64 degrees Fahrenheit between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. There is a maximum allowable temperature of 78 degrees.
  • If the apartment is separately metered for heat the tenant may be responsible for heating costs. Be sure to ask the heating costs from the previous year. In addition to usage, factors such as what floor the apartment is on and how well the building is insulated can impact the total heating cost. Most apartments will require you to pay for electricity usage.

Furnishings:

  • Once you have found your apartment, you’ll still need stuff to put in it! Beds, furniture, kitchenware, and home electronics all can add up pretty quickly. Consider what items you already own and what items you will need to furnish your apartment. Another possibility is renting furniture. Check out cort.com for more details.
  • The landlord is required to provide a working stove, oven, sink, and screens for each window up to and including the fourth floor. The landlord is not required to provide a refrigerator (however, they are required to provide a space for one), window blinds, shades, window safety bars, or laundry facilities.
  • The landlord must maintain all structural elements such as windows, staircases, floors, walls, doors, etc. It is the landlords responsibility that all exits are free of snow.
Location

Each neighborhood has its own distinct character and history. Location will also dictate other factors. When apartment searching, consider how far you are willing to commute and search within that range. Determine what amenities you would like close by and which you are willing to travel for. Be sure you find a location that satisfies these needs as well.

For more information on different areas around campus, check out the Boston Neighborhoods section on our Guide to Living in Boston and Transportation page.

Safety

The landlord must provide a working lock on every window as well as on the entry and exit doors, smoke detectors in each apartment and common areas, and for buildings which contain fossil fuel burning equipment, carbon monoxide detectors. Additional safety features you may want to consider are internal and external lighting of the building, a peephole on the door, a doorbell or intercom, and an alarm system or on-site security personnel.

Renters Insurance

Your possessions are probably more valuable than you realize. Clothes, electronics, furniture, jewelry – they all add up pretty quickly. You may want to consider purchasing renter’s insurance. In most cases, a landlord’s property insurance will not cover damages to a tenant’s property. Renter’s insurance will typically cover damages due to fire, natural occurrences, burst pipes, and theft. Additionally, dated receipts, photographs and videos are excellent ways to document personal possessions. Check out this Homeowners and Renters Insurance reviews page.

Parking

Parking in Boston is limited. If you plan to own a car, decide how you are going to park. If off-street parking is not included in your lease, be sure to observe the on-street parking regulations near your apartment. Many neighborhoods include a mix of resident and non-resident parking. For more information on resident parking permits see this link. For information about the Mass Motor Vehicle Law, please see this link.

Roommates

There are many benefits to living with roommates. In addition to the providing a comfortable social environment at home, roommates share many of the expenses and responsibilities, which can often save a lot of money. Before deciding to live together, though, potential roommates should discuss some guidelines to establish their expectations of each other. It can also be helpful to create a written roommate agreement to avoid conflict in the future. The following are some important topics to discuss with a potential roommate.

Use of the apartment

  • Who will occupy which areas of the apartment?
  • Which areas in the apartment or items in the apartment can be shared and which are personal?
  • What furniture do you already own? What needs to be purchased?

Personal lifestyle

  • What is your typical daily schedule?
  • What activities do you like to do at home?
  • Will practicing be allowed in the apartment? If so, what guidelines will you have for practicing?
  • How will you share responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the apartment?
  • Will use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs be allowed in the apartment?
  • What method of communication do you prefer?
  • How will conflicts be discussed and resolved?

Finances

  • Who will be on the lease or will all roommates?
  • How financially stable are you? What income sources do you have to pay for rent and other expense?
  • Under whose name will the utilities be billed?
  • Will food and other items be shared or paid for separately?
  • What payment schedule should you follow for shared expenses?
  • Most leases contain a rent responsibility clause. Usually it will state that each tenant is “jointly and severally liable” for the rent. This means that if one or more roommates fail to pay their share of the rent payment the remaining roommates are responsible for the entire payment.

Resources for finding a roommate can be found on our Resources for Finding an Apt/Room/Roommate page.

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