Beyond the Diag - Off Campus Housing

Move-in packet with keys and rental information.

Moving off campus is an exciting part of your Michigan experience; however, the transition to living on your own can be overwhelming. There are many responsibilities that come with renting a home in Ann Arbor: maintaining a good relationship with your landlord, keeping up with rent payments, and getting involved in your neighborhood – just to name a few. Keep these things in mind for a successful year.

The Lease

Do not be pressured into signing your lease too early. A lease is a binding legal agreement that are almost impossible to break. Make sure you review and understand your entire lease before move-in day so you know what to expect from your landlord and rental home. Most off-campus leases are for a 12-month period and typically run from May to May or September to September.

Most leases make all tenants “jointly and severally liable,” which means that each roommate is responsible for everything – if one person doesn’t pay rent, the other roommates are still obligated to pay the full amount. If you are searching for a new house or apartment, consider having the lease reviewed by U-M Student Legal Services before you sign. To schedule a free appointment, call (734) 763-9920.

Security Deposit

The security deposit may not be greater than 1.5 times the first month's rent.  

The Inventory Checklist

When you move in, your landlord must provide 2 blank copies of an inventory checklist. Use this sheet to thoroughly document the condition of the property before you move anything in. Write everything down – this list will serve as proof of what damages existed before your lease started, which is important for getting your security deposit back at the end of the year. It is also best to take pictures or videos of the unit. Return one completed inventory checklist to your landlord within 7 days of move-in and keep the other copy for your own records.


Think carefully about who your roommate/s will be - remember that you will be living together for a full year. Discuss things like quiet times, chores, and visitors before signing a lease. Consider you and your roommate/s summer plans. What will you do with your room or apartment during the summer months? If you choose to sublet, make certain that you understand the implications and that your roommates agree. Check your lease to determine if your landlord has restrictions or guidelines about subtenants.


In most off-campus rentals, you will be responsible for utilities (gas, water, electricity, cable/internet, etc), and your lease should clearly state which of these you must pay. If you are required to cover heating costs, the lease must also include a projected monthly budget for heating fuel. Keep this additional cost in mind when selecting a house or apartment – utility bills can add up quickly. Consider splitting the bills amongst your roommates so that each person has an opportunity to build their credit. Most importantly, pay all bills on time!

Renter’s Insurance

Consider purchasing renter’s insurance, which ensures that you are reimbursed if your personal property is lost, stolen or damaged in your off-campus house – some policies also cover injuries to guests and/or visitors. Affordable renter’s insurance can be purchased from many local agencies or added to your current car or home insurance policy.