Finding an Apartment
Word of mouth, newspapers, signs in windows, bulletin boards at RPI and in stores and businesses in the community are all places where apartment listings are posted. Rensselaer also uses JumpOffCampus, a resource available to students 24 hours a day that provides current listings for the Troy area. Neighborhood Association contacts often know of available apartments in their neighborhoods. Please see the attached Neighborhood Association list for contact information.
You should give yourself ample time to find an apartment. Many landlords begin advertising in January for the fall semester, so it pays to get an early start. These places can disappear quickly, so you cannot wait until the summer to look for fall housing. If you are arranging an apartment for the fall, consider very carefully whether you can afford to pay rent on a vacant apartment during the summer months, or if you will be able to sublet during that time.
While landlords do have the right to screen potential tenants for reliability and good character, it is illegal for them to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, creed, religion, ethnic background, gender, or family composition. The only exception may be when the owner resides in the rental property. If you feel that you are a victim of discrimination, you can file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights (see Appendix entitled Housing Discrimination).
Planning a budget before you start looking for an apartment will help you understand your price range when evaluating apartments. Be sure to factor in the cost of heat and utilities in determining the real cost of an apartment before you decide to pay more for a more desirable space or location. In addition, decide ahead of time whether you want a lease (and for what length of time) or a month-to month rental, and negotiate this with the prospective landlord. If you have to compromise on the terms of your rental, be sure that whatever you are getting is worth whatever risk or expense you might incur.
Find out in advance how many other people (if any) will share the apartment with you and what their space needs are. It is also important that you all come to a decision ahead of time as to who will get the most/least desirable space in the rental space, and who will pay what portion of the apartment costs before signing a lease or rental agreement. If you already have furniture, you should ensure that it will fit into the room(s) that you will be using. If you don't own any furniture, you should factor that cost into your budget.
Use the criteria described above for a comfortable, affordable, convenient and safe apartment when inspecting a prospective apartment. Bring a friend or two, especially if they will be roommates, to look over the prospective apartments. Don't rush your inspection, and, if possible, arrange to bring other potential roommates back over to inspect the apartment. Don't forget to check whether the apartment has already been wired for internet connection, or if that is something that you will have to undertake yourself. Please refer to the Appendix for a basic inspection checklist; date it, have the landlord sign it, and keep it to review with the landlord when you prepare to move out.
If you are interested in the apartment, make sure to discuss its shortcomings or problems with the landlord. If repairs are needed, ask the landlord to put in writing a commitment with a timetable for when repairs will be made. If he/she will not do this, it is an indication of how he/she may avoid responsibility for problems that may arise after the apartment is occupied.
If you have children less than six years of age, a landlord
must disclose to you whether or not there are any lead-based
paint hazards in the rental unit, and provide you with a
booklet about how to protect your family from the dangers posed
by lead. The booklet and disclosure form are included in the
If the apartment has recently undergone major renovation, the City of Troy will require the landlord to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, or a "CO." Even though a CO is not required in most cases prior to a tenant's move-in, you might still want to check with Code Enforcement to see if a particular landlord has a history of code violations. Their phone number is located in the City of Troy Directory of Community Services brochure.
If you make an agreement to perform certain services -- such as snow removal, yard care, painting, or minor repairs -- in return for the landlord reducing your rent, this should be put in writing; be sure to keep a copy for your records. However, you also need to ensure that you are capable of doing the work when needed.
Do not give money for a deposit unless you are absolutely certain that you will take the apartment and that you can afford the rent. If you initially say that you will take the apartment and then change your mind, you may not get your money refunded because the landlord may have turned away other potential tenants and thus lost money on a vacant apartment.
Last modified: Apr 29, 2013