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A student guide to navigating the off-campus housing market The Badger Herald

By on September 23, 2021 0

With the start of the fall term 2021, students are already starting to look forward to housing options for next year. Due to the competitive housing market in Madison, tenants are starting to look to sign leases for next fall up to eight to 12 months in advance.

To all students who are currently living at home or in accommodation on campus, don’t panic! There is still plenty of time to find an off-campus housing option and there is always the option of staying in the residences on campus for a second year. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking about what you want your housing situation to look like next year.

First of all, what do you need?

Before contacting landlords looking to rent, it’s a good idea to prepare everything you need to complete an apartment application.

The first thing you’ll want is a price range. Whether it’s personal monthly income and budgeting accordingly – most experts say housing shouldn’t exceed 30% of your gross annual income – or to determine a rent sharing with potential roommates, it is a good idea to embark on the housing search with a number in mind.

Keep in mind that there may be other charges that are not directly included in the rent, such as an initial security deposit or recurring utility charges.

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When request an apartment, there are a few things you might want to have with you – a driver’s license or state ID, your social security number, any current or previous rental history, if applicable, status and employment information, proof of income and references. Be sure to call all the landlords you are renting with and ask them what their specific request entails.

Most apartment or housing requests will also include a credit check. It’s a good way for tenants to judge your ability to manage your money and your likelihood of paying rent in full and on time each month.

Yes you don’t have a credit score yet, do not worry! Common workarounds include enlisting a co-signer – someone like a parent or family member who has a good credit rating and can pay the rent if you fail to pay – or renting with a roommate who has a credit score.

So what options are the?

Here is a list of the main types of accommodation you might want to consider:

  1. Apartment – This is the most common form of accommodation for students and one that offers a wide range of options. These include studios for a student or a multi-bedroom for a group of friends. Madison has a mix of busier downtown apartment complexes with quiet buildings in nearby suburbs.
  2. House – Students usually look for a house when they have a larger group of roommates, as renting an entire house can be a heavy responsibility for a few students.
  3. Townhouse – Townhouses are a hybrid between a house and an apartment. They often have a few floors and are located in a vertical design.

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Where to look

The most common places to find apartments or houses for rent are on sites such as, and These sites are easy to navigate and are often quite reliable.

Another way for college students to search for accommodation is through their graduating university’s Facebook page. This is a popular option with students as thousands of other college students are looking for roommates and someone to sublet in the area. But beware and take precautions to make sure the leases are legitimate, as Facebook is not an official rental site and inclined to crooks.

UW also has its own search engine for students looking for off-campus accommodation.


It’s important to give some general advice on how to go about this process and live on your own in the midst of a global pandemic – especially with the increase in cases among college-aged students due to the delta variant.

Make sure you know your roommates before signing a lease, and learn about their vaccination status and COVID-19 habits. Your health and safety should be your top priority.

On a similar note, ask any homeowners you meet about their COVID-19 precautions. Are tenants required to wear masks in common or shared areas of the house or apartment complex? Are tenants notified if there is potential exposure? What is the process if you contract COVID-19 yourself during the rental? These are all important questions to ask.

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If you are planning to study abroad next year, make sure you have a back-up housing plan. This year and last year, many study abroad programs have been suspended or canceled due to the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation. Especially now with the increase in cases of delta variants, it might be wise to have a plan in place just in case you end up staying in Wisconsin throughout the 2021-22 school year.

Finally, if you can, to get vaccinated! And regardless of vaccination status, protect yourself and others around you by masking yourself in shared spaces, cleaning your hands and space regularly, and maintaining social distancing as much as possible.

The bottom line is this: Next year’s housing rush has already started.

Whether you’re looking for an apartment affiliated with the college itself, an off-campus house with roommates, or renting a space on your own, Madison has several tenants eager to rent their home for the next academic year. If you need more help with the process, University Housing has its own options for students looking to expand beyond the typical dorm experience.