General tips for finding an apartment

Start Looking Early: The process for finding apartments starts early. The following are possible resources for finding available properties:

  1. Local Newspapers
  2. University of Iowa Off Campus Housing Listing website.
  3. Friends or classmates are often aware of possible vacancies.
  4. Bulletin boards in laundromats, etc., may have rental postings.
  5. Websites such as Craigslist and Facebook. However, do not rent or agree to rent a property without seeing it first.

Precautions, leases, tours

Precautions to keep in mind: never rent a living unit without first touring the exact unit you will be renting. The amount of rent and other provisions in the lease, as well as the physical condition of the unit are key factors in determining whether to sign a lease. Before you even start looking, you should determine what your housing budget will be and stick to that amount.

You do not want to get into a situation where you cannot afford your rent. Be aware of the length of the lease agreement you are signing. Most landlords offer a lease for a full year: in the Iowa City area they typically begin on August 1 and end in late July.

Landlords, maintenance, and security

When you are looking for an apartment, you should also investigate the reputation of the landlord and manager concerning maintenance, return of security deposits and general relationships with tenants. Look at the locks on the doors and windows, and the lighting around the apartment to evaluate the security of the apartment against theft.

Heating, cooling, and construction quality

Consider the quality and the age of the construction and insulation as it will affect the cost of heating and cooling: Iowa City generally has hot summers and cold winters.

Ask questions

Current and former tenants are good sources of information, as are neighbors. Ask a lot of questions when looking at the property, find out what the average utilities are, and go visit the property at night to see if you feel safe in the neighborhood and if the area around the property is well lit.

Check out "rate your landlord" websites like:

Roommate contracts

Finally, before you sign a lease, consider signing a roommate contract. It is extremely important that you and your roommates are clear on your expectations. It is beneficial to all tenants to spell out your individual responsibilities in a roommate contract. By providing written documentation of each roommates responsibilities to each other, a roommate contract can help avoid disputes later on and help ensure that all roommates contribute equally to household tasks and cleaning of the apartment.

Fill out your own roommate contract.