Know Your Budget
Before you make the leap to off-campus living, be sure that you know all of the expenses you will be incurring and create a budget you are comfortable with. The Wildcat Cost Calculator is a great way to get a quick cost comparison between on-campus and off-campus living.
Renting Off Campus
When you are looking into off-campus living options, there are a number of basic rental fees that you will need to consider:
- Property application fees
- Rent (Many landlords require you to pay first month’s rent and last month’s rent upfront.)
- Security deposit (in addition to rent)
- Credit history check fee (If you do not have credit history or have bad credit, then you may be asked to provide a guarantor, such as a parent or guardian to sign.)
- Criminal background check
- Property administration fee
- Utility hookup fees
- Pet deposit fee
- Parking fee
Property management companies may waive fees, if asked; however, it is not guaranteed at every property.
In addition to the basic cost of renting an off-campus apartment, you will need to factor in the cost of purchasing furniture, decorations, kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, groceries, gas, parking passes, off-campus entertainment, etc.
Unexpected Charges and Fees
Late rent and utilities payments are reported on your personal credit score and may impact your ability to secure housing in the future. Property management companies may also charge an additional late fee for late rental payments. Be sure that you and your roommates have a clear understanding of who will be paying the bills, how the bills will be payed, and when bills are due.
To avoid late fees, here are some things for you and your roommates to consider::
- Who will be placing the utilities in their name (e.g. gas, electric, water, cable, and internet)?
- Will you have communal food or will everyone buy their own?
- Who will purchase household necessities (e.g. toilet paper, cleaners, etc.) and how often? Will you take turns, collect money, and send one person to the store, etc.?
- How will you handle a situation where one or more individuals are late on payments?
- What will happen if one individual needs or decides to move out before the end of the lease term?
- If damages occur, how will they be paid?
- Will you complete a roommate agreement form?
Note: Make sure that everyone living in the unit has signed the lease. You are responsible for everything that happens in your unit.
Before moving any of your personal property into an apartment unit or off-campus house, take pictures of all areas of the unit: walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, locks, bathrooms, kitchen, and exterior areas. If there are maintenance needs, take pictures, create a document that includes pictures and a detailed description of the maintenance needs, and submit it to your property management/landlord with your rental condition report. It would also be a good idea to email a copy of your findings to the property manager/landlord in order to ensure that you have documented the issues thoroughly.
If damages occur in the unit you are renting with friends, it is NOT the landlord/property management’s responsibility to decide which tenant caused the damage. Everyone who lives in the unit will be held responsible for damages; and everyone may lose their security deposits.
On the day you move out of your apartment/house, walk through the unit with your roommates and the property manager/landlord and take pictures of the empty unit. Be sure to ask the property manager/landlord if you will be billed for any additional expenses and if/when you will be receiving your security deposit. Follow up with an email to the property manager/landlord after the walk-through outlining what was discussed to ensure clear communication. If you are billed for damages that you were not aware of, you will have documentation to help you argue to retain your security deposit.
Before signing a lease, contact the Office of Financial Aid to ask if you will be receiving a residual check from your aid after your educational bills have been paid and when you can expect to receive the check.
Once you have a clear understanding of how much you will be receiving in your residual check, you can begin to plan your budget. If you are relying on your residual check to pay for your housing costs, keep in mind that fall residual checks are not typically received until the middle or end of August; spring checks are not received until the middle or end of January.
- Fall residual checks will need to cover rent for September - February and should reimburse you for any upfront fees and rent that you paid before receiving your fall aid.
- Spring residual checks will need to cover rent for March - January.
If you are responsible for the costs associated with living off campus, you may need to consider employment options. Working on campus is a great way to make some extra money in a convenient environment with university faculty and staff who value your academic success.
How to Make a Budget/Financial Assistance
If you have never managed a budget, you may want to meet with a MoneyCats student financial coach in the Student Financial Wellness Center located on the 3rd floor of Patterson Hall to learn how to best utilize your resources. You can also use this budget worksheet to help calculate the cost of living off campus.
There may be times when you may need assistance to help with utility bills, rent, food, or emergency housing. MoneyCats will be able to refer students to resources at UK and in the Lexington community that provide help in difficult times.
- UK Financial Ombud
- Adult & Tenant Services
- Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Emergency Assistance
- Big Blue Pantry
- Parent Scholar Assistance Programs
- SNAP/Food Stamps
Alumni, parents, families, students, and community members can assist students experiencing tragedy by donating to the UK Emergency Assistance and Relief Fund.