(Information obtained from Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood (PAYA), Handbook for Skill Development, Massachusetts Department of Social Services – click here to visit website)
If you are considering living with a roommate, renting a furnished room, or living on a college campus, your start up costs (as well as your ongoing expenses) will probably be lower than if you would move into an apartment by yourself. Whichever option that you choose safety should be a major consideration. Let's explore some of your living options:
Renting a Furnished Room
Furnished rooms are often advertised on an internet site like Craigslist.org or in the newspaper and usually consist of a bedroom with a shared kitchen and bathroom. This type of arrangement can be offered through private homes or rooming houses. The rent can be due weekly or monthly and you may have to sign a lease/rental agreement. Utilities may or may not be included and a deposit may or may not be required. Although this arrangement requires little start-up money and is often used as transitional housing, it can have some disadvantages. Lack of privacy, visitor restrictions, house rules, other tenants, etc might be some of the drawbacks of living in a furnished room.
Living on Campus
For those who plan to attend college, campus housing might be an option. Many four year and selected two year schools offer dormitory housing and optional meal plans. Dormitory rooms are usually furnished and shared with a roommate. Costs for this type of living arrangement vary greatly, depending on each individual school. Although campus housing is a convenient, safe, and cheap option for those of you who are planning to go to college, there are some factors to keep in mind before choosing an on-campus room. Dormitory housing gives you the opportunity to meet many new people but doesn’t offer much privacy. Students may also be asked to leave campus during the semester breaks. If you plan to live in a dorm, visit the college of your choice and talk to a representative about campus housing regarding costs, rules, availability, etc.
Finding an Apartment
Prior to looking for an apartment, you will have to decide whether or not you are willing to sign a detailed rental agreement, called a lease. Most landlords require tenants to sign a lease, which defines responsibilities and expectations for both parties. Leases offer protection to the tenant and the landlord. A lease is legal documents and, therefore, binding. By signing a lease, tenants usually commit to keeping the apartment for 12 months and are held financially responsible for the rent during this period. Leases also specify rules and restrictions for tenants, i.e. pets, use of apartment facilities (pool, laundry), noise levels, parking, etc. Most leases also require that tenants do not sublease (rent the apartment to someone else) without permission.
In general, a lease is considered a legal contract whose conditions are agreed upon when both the tenant and the landlord sign their names. So be sure to read the entire agreement carefully and thoroughly before you sign a lease. Your landlord must also abide by the terms of the lease. Be sure you know your responsibilities and rights as a tenant. Please review the Residential Landlord & Tenant Act
Finding an apartment can be difficult for young people starting out. Some landlords prefer not to rent to young tenants due to the lack of references, potential income restrictions, and general concerns about possible difficulties. However, if you present yourself as a responsible tenant and can provide the following information, you will be able to find an apartment which best suits your needs:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of employment or co-signer (with steady income, good references)
- First and last month rent and/or security deposit
Review start-up costs when you are saving money to get an apartment to get an idea of how much you will need to have. For many young people, living alone may be financially impossible. Therefore, cutting expenses in half by living with a roommate might be a good option. It is an alternative that should be discussed and carefully considered when making long-range plans. The rent of a two-bedroom apartment divided into halves is usually significantly cheaper than a comparable one-bedroom apartment. However, it is not always easy to share expenses and living space with a roommate.
To avoid unwelcome surprises and conflicts, it is important that potential roommates consider the following issues prior to moving into an apartment together. Once you have found a roommate (or several roommates) and you have decided that you are a good match, it is important to define chores, expectations, rules, and expenses clearly.
Prior to living together, you and your roommate should come to definite and detailed agreements in the following areas:
Personality - Will you be able to get along with your roommate?
Lifestyles - Do you generally keep the same hours? Enjoy the same things? Does it bother you if others borrow or use your belongings (clothes, TV, food)?
Expenses - How will you divide the costs of living? If you share expenses, which ones and how much will each party pay? Who will sign the lease? Contract with the utility companies (gas, electric, water, trash)?
Family and Friends - Should you make some agreement about visitors? Consider visiting hours, overnight guests, noise.
Household Chores - Who will do what? When? Make a simple (What, Who, How Often, When) rotating cleaning schedule and post it in a visible spot.
Further explore things to be considered prior to making a decision about sharing an apartment and choosing a roommate.
If potential roommates evaluate each other’s lifestyle as well as personality and establish a detailed agreement listing expectations, sharing an apartment can not only have financial advantages over living alone but can also be a rewarding experience.