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Plan Your Housing Search

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Searching for housing in New Orleans can be a stressful and time-consuming process. Start looking early, and do your research! Ask students who currently live off-campus for their advice and recommendations.

Timeline

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students are encouraged to begin planning their housing search as soon as possible. For example, many students plan their junior year housing during the fall semester of their sophomore year. Undergraduate students often sign leases in December or January for the following August.  

  • August to November: Planning
    • Find roommates, discuss your living preferences, agree on a plan for your search
  • November to January: Housing Search
    • Contact potential landlords, view properties, discuss potential housing units with roommates
  • January to February: Sign a Lease
  • August: Move In! 
    • Complete a move-in inspection and take pictures for your records

​Graduate Students

Many graduate students move directly into off-campus housing and have different timelines than our undergraduate students. After gaining acceptance to an academic program, graduate students are encouraged to find short-term housing in New Orleans during the summer while they look for long-term housing. Check with your academic program for advice, potential roommate opportunities, and other resources they may offer.  

Lease Terminology and Key Information

Most common leases are 12 months long, with rent being due the first day of each month. Here is a list of lease-related terminology commonly used by landlords.

Month-to-Month: A type of housing contract that is renewed at the end of each month. Under this lease agreement, tenants are allowed to leave after giving a 30 day notice.

Yearly: A housing contract that holds tenants liable to pay rent for an entire year. Breaking a signed, yearly lease agreement will result in a tenant having financial penalties.

Please note that it's rare for leases to start out as month-to-month. Usually, landlords will give their tenants the option to switch to month-to-month after the first year lease is up. If you are looking for a housing lease agreement that doesn't hold you accountable to a full year, subletting might be the best option for you.

Additional Information:

The advantage of living in an old apartment building--as compared to a modern building--is the potential for lower monthly rent and a sense of "character" to the space that modern buildings may lack. Disadvantages may include but are not limited to a smaller space with fewer amenities and the potential for appliances to break down more easily.

An apartment vacancy tends to have a very short window of opening before a landlord drafts a lease to fill that space. If you are interested in a property, don't delay. Complete an application as soon as you are able to.

Property managers will typically not "hold" an apartment. Once a lease agreement is signed, the rent and/or security deposit is due immediately to finalize the transaction.

As this is a competitive housing market, it is important to demonstrate to the property manager and/or landlord that you are a responsible and respectful person. Carrying a folder of your financial information along with a renters resume is highly recommended.

Definitions

Landlord: The person who owns and/or rents the property

Master tenant: Person who moves into the premises under a written or oral contract with the landlord or whoever inherits the apartment after the original master tenant leaves. S/he collects the rent from the subtenants and pays the landlord each month. The master tenant is the only person on the lease.

Subtenant: Tenant who pays the master tenant each month and who is not on a signed lease agreement

Co-Tenant: Person who may have moved into a property after the original lease as signed, but has established a relationship with the landlord, most commonly through payment of rent each month

Rent: Amount paid by the first day of every month to continue living in a property

Lease: Contractual, legal agreement written and signed by the landlord that specifies the property to be rented out for a tenant or tenants during a specific period of time

Deposit: The amount paid to a landlord during the beginning of a lease assignment as a placeholder for any fees that may arise due to damages during a tenant's rental period. All tenants are legally entitled to receive this deposit back at the end of a lease agreement, assuming that obligations have been met and that no damages have occurred.

Penalty Fee: Amount owed to landlord by the tenant if the tenant breaks any of the rules listed on the lease agreement

Renters Resume: A document that lists past living arrangements, landlord references (if the applicant has any), current employment, and scholarships or revenue intended to verify stability in terms of paying rent in a timely manner. Renters resumes quite often verify applicants as respectful and responsible people who would be qualified as tenants.

Calling a landlord

The first phone call you make to your potential landlord is most likely the most important. Oftentimes, you will need to leave a message. Below are some tips to help you.

  • Say hi and give your full name. "Hi, my name is _____________."
  • State what unit you are calling about. Oftentimes, landlords have several units on the market, so stating this right away will help you avoid confusion and annoyance. "I saw your listing on Craigslist for a 1-bedroom apartment in the Richmond. I am interested in learning more about it."
  • Give a brief summary of your status and timeline. Emphasize any positive characteristic that will make you appear mature and reliable. For example, if you are a graduate student or an honors students, mention that. "I am a third-year student studying architecture at Tulane and I am looking for an apartment to move into within the next month."
  • If you have any specific needs, ask about them right away. For example, if you have a pet or are a smoker, you should find out immediately if the landlord allows that in the unit. This will avoid wasting their time and yours. "Before we schedule a viewing, can you tell me if you allow pets in the unit? I have a pet dog, but it is house-broken and accustomed to living in a small apartment." "Do you allow smoking in the unit?"
  • Ask for a viewing. Be as flexible as possible. The landlord typically has many people interested in renting a unit, so the more accommodating you are, the better chance you have of finding a unit. "I would like to schedule a time to view the unit. I am available all afternoon today, if that would work for you."
  • Above all, be sure to be polite, informative, and to the point. Additionally, make sure to speak clearly and sound mature.

If you have to leave a message, be sure to state your phone number towards the beginning of the message, and then give your name and phone number a second time at the end of the message.

Meeting a landlord

When meeting the landlord, you want to make a good impression. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be punctual: Landlords usually require appointments to view the property. Arrive on time to make a positive impression. If you cannot make the appointment, call the landlord to reschedule or cancel.
  • Be presentable: Landlords want to rent to people who are mature, responsible, and reliable. Your attire can be a reflection of these qualities. Attention to your attire may improve your chances when there are several applicants competing for the same housing unit.
  • Ask questions: Be sure to ask questions about the apartment. You have the right to know everything about the property you will be renting. For a complete list of topics to ask about, see Inspecting the Property.
  • Bring your checkbook: The New Orleans market is very competitive and desirable units are often rented out very quickly. So, be prepared to pay an application, a security/cleaning deposit, and 1-2 months of rent the day you go to view the apartment. Most landlords will not hold a unit for a potential tenant. If you do not have a checking account, you should consider bringing a money order or cashier's check that covers the advertised deposits or fees.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR VIEWING A PROPERTY:

  • Tell a friend where you're going.
  • If you have a cell phone, take it with you.
  • Try to schedule the viewing during the day.
  • Consider having a friend go with you.
  • Trust your instincts.
Inspecting the property

When viewing a rental unit, be prepared to inspect for problems or damage. Completing an apartment overview checklist may save you time and money at the end of you lease. Find a sample checklist here. This checklist will serve as proof of the condition of the unit at the time of rental, in case there is a dispute about damage. 

Health and Safety Checklist:

  • Door and window locks
  • Cracks in the floors or walls
  • Signs of leaks or water damage
  • Signs of rust in water taps (be sure to turn on faucets)
  • Leaks in bathroom or kitchen fixtures
  • Lack of hot water (check size of hot water tank; ask how many units share one tank)
  • Defective heating or air conditioning
  • Improper ventilation and lighting
  • Defects in or exposed electrical wiring and fixtures
  • Damage to flooring and carpeting, including stains and tears
  • Damage to furnishings and window coverings
  • Signs of mildew or mold
  • Broken appliances (turn on stove burners, garbage disposal, refrigerator, etc.)
  • Insect or rodent infestations, especially in cabinets, under sinks, and around baseboards
  • What is the maintenance policy? Who is responsible for fixing what?
  • Is there a fire escape?
  • Does the unit have at least one smoke detector?

It is a good idea to take detailed pictures of the unit before moving in. If there is any dispute about the condition of the unit when you move out, the pictures will serve as good evidence. Save these pictures along with a copy of the Apartment Overview Checklist.

What to bring

When you are viewing a property, bring your Renter's Resume and checkbook. If you like the place, you should be prepared to make a deposit immediately.​

A Renter's Resume contains much of the information you will need to complete an apartment application:

  • Contact information
  • Previous tenancies
  • Financial accounts
  • Income
  • Employment
  • Vehicle Information
  • Emergency contact

A Renter's Resume can be completed for your own reference when filling out apartment applications or can be given to a landlord as a supplement to the application.

Questions to ask

It is important to be well-informed before signing a lease. Below are a few questions you should ask:

  • Rent: How much; When it is due; Starting date?
  • Deposit: How much; How will it be used; How and when is it refunded?; Is the refund automatic or does it need to be requested?
  • Damages: Who pays for breakage or other damages over and above normal wear and tear - individuals, or all occupants?
  • Subletting: Is it permitted; What is the procedure?
  • Roommates: Should all roommates sign the lease; Are roommates responsible for only a portion of the rent; If someone moves out must the remaining roommates make up the difference?
  • Alterations: May the unit be altered, such as painted; Can you hang pictures on the wall (and how)?
  • Laundry Facilities: Are they available and are there any restrictions?
  • Noise Restrictions: For musical instruments, stereo, TV, or social events?
  • Inspection by Landlord: When may the landlord enter your unit; How much notice must be given?
  • Parking: Is it available; Is it included in the rent or is it an added charge?
  • Pets: Are pets allowed; Is there an added charge for having a pet?
  • Utilities: What utilities are included in the rent; How much is the installation fee for those not included; What are the billing and payment procedures?
Before you sign a lease

If the landlord makes any promises or representation about the apartment, have them put it in writing!

Make sure the lease reflects the fact that you’ll have new furniture, parking is guaranteed, etc. Verbal contracts can be impossible to enforce; some leases expressly preclude verbal agreements.

Don’t sign a lease until you are certain you want the place.

It can be difficult and/or expensive to cancel a lease once it’s signed.

Don’t commit yourself to a place you can’t afford!

Each fall, there are students who have rented a multi-bedroom place in the spring and still have not been able to round up enough housemates to make the payments. Anyone who has signed the lease may remain legally liable for the full rent.

Be sure to get a copy of the signed lease.

Get this from your landlord and keep it in a safe place. The landlord is required by law to give you a copy. You may need it for future reference if any problems occur during the term of the lease.

Before signing the lease or paying any money, you should inspect the property with the landlord and a witness.

You should also be allowed to inspect the utilities - the appliances, the electrical system, the plumbing, heating and lights - as well as locks and windows. Write down all existing damages. Both you and the landlord should sign and date the list. You may also want to videotape or take photographs to document your descriptions. This list will prevent the landlord from trying to charge you for these damages when you move out. Landlords can refuse to cooperate (these are not "rights" legally enforceable in court), but cooperation is advised. To have a list is in the best interest of both landlord and tenant, since it protects all parties if there is a disagreement about who is responsible for any repairs.

The lease should state who is responsible for paying which utility bills.

In some cases, the landlord pays for heat, electricity, and water. Sometimes the tenant is responsible for these bills. If this issue is not addressed in the lease, the tenant and landlord should work out their own understanding. It is good to put this agreement in writing, and have it signed by both parties. 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

Tulane University Housing and Residence Life provides information regarding housing in the New Orleans area for your convenience only. The University makes no representation as to the condition or suitability of any of the listed resources or establishments, nor does it assume responsibility for their condition or reliability, or for any agreements you enter into with them. This website is not intended to provide legal advice, and it should not be used as such.