Large apartments/rooming houses. Most undergraduate leases in the area immediately west of Campus start on June 1. The search for undergraduate housing begins earlier and earlier every year, with inquiries starting as early as October and actual lists of availabilities coming out as early as mid-November for large houses and apartments. By the end of the fall semester many of the undergraduate students living off campus in the next academic year, will have already signed leases and put down deposits. Indeed if large rooming houses do not get rented by the end of January to mid February, chances are landlords will have a hard time renting them out for the prices they can expect to receive when they rent to undergraduate students. Quite often houses in very popular locations never get to be listed. Current tenants hand over the house to a group of friends, if they do not plan to renew. It is always a good idea to check with friends who are living off-campus. Lists of available studios, one and two bedroom apartments usually get posted later, with availability information coming out as early as mid- January.
Property owners/managers know what properties they have available for rent usually after receiving notice of intention to renew/terminate from the current tenants. The notification requirement in leases ranges from 60/90 days to 180 days, with many large property owners/realtors in the area east of 42nd Street asking for notice in November, December or January. In some cases, landlords may know about the availability of certain apartments/houses before, as tenants who are seniors declare their intention to terminate the lease. Also, quite often, houses in very popular locations never get to be listed. Current tenants hand over the house to a group of friends, if they do not plan to renew.
The vast majority of large houses for undergraduate share, up to 42nd Street, are owned and managed by the following companies:
Campus Apartments - 215-382-1300
Over 75 houses, 4 - 12, (several 12+), bedroom houses in the area 39th Street to 42nd Street. Rental range per bedroom: $630 - $765. On "beige block": $675 - 700. Tenants pay all utilities. List of availabilities for houses & 4+ bedroom apartments: after December 15. Information may be received from current tenants earlier. Stop by office and fill out a guest card to receive updates on availabilities. No co-signer required. Penn ID required. At least 3 people to sign lease and full security deposit. First and last month payment scheduled in 2 installments after lease is signed. Most leases beginning June 1 and end on May 25th the next year. Be aware of that when you sign the lease.
University City Housing (UCH) - 215-222-2000
Over 30 houses, 4 to 13 bedroom houses in the area 39th to 42nd Street. List of June availabilities: Information about large apartments & houses starts mid-November. Studios, one-, two-bedroom apartments: late November and December. No co-signer required. All housemates must apply together. Leases beginning June 1 end May 21st, the next year. Estimated budgeting amount per bedroom: $500 - $675, depending on location. In houses tenants pay all utilities. Hamilton Court apartments utilities included in rent. Call office or email email@example.com.
University City Associates (UCA)
Managed by Campus Apartments
Some 25 houses, 5 to 11 bedrooms, 39th to 42nd Street. Two offices: 39th & Chestnut/Sansom Sts., 215-387-1313/14; 39th, 40th & Pine/Spruce Streets 215-382-2969. Estimated budgeting amount per bedroom: $500 to $625, depending on location. Tenant pays all utilities. No waiting list. Co-signer required.
University Enterprises - 215-222-5500
25 houses, 5 to 10 bedrooms, 39th and 42nd Streets. Availability list: after November 15. Possible information earlier, call to be placed on waiting list. Estimated averages per bedroom: $500 to $700, depending on location: higher at 39th and Pine, 40th and Locust Streets. Tenants pay all utilities. All tenants must sign lease. Parent guarantor letter required. June 1 leases end May 24th, the next year.
NOTE: This list is not a recommendation, just a list of the larger landlords with houses for rent, who list early and rent to undergraduate students.You can find more information on our Apartment Listing Interactive Database at www.upenn.edu/offcampusservices. Check our Landlord List and the Landlord Survey for more information. Call our office if you are interested in a particular location and would like to know who the landlord is.
Determine what kind of housing will meet your needs/requirements and how much you can afford to spend on housing. - Think of location, distance to/from campus, type of unit, etc.(see our Search for Housing, Choosing a Neighborhood and Student Demographics factsheets)
- Plan your finances (use our Financial Information fact sheet)
- Decide if you want to share or not (see our Choosing a Roommate factsheet)
Who you live with could be as important as where you live, if not more so. If you plan to share make sure you understand that only the people whose names are on the lease have a binding contract with the landlord. If you have a friend who says he/she is interested but does not sign the lease he/she will not be held responsible for the lease terms. Tenants who sign a lease are jointly and severally responsible for its terms, which means that if a roommate skips on rent the others assume liability for his/her part of the rent and the landlord can ask for that money from you. It also means that the landlord can sue for money/damages/possessions individually or collectively.
Visit the units that match your needs. Compile a list of advantages or disadvantages for each, so you can make the decision easier. If/when you fill out an application and put a deposit down, that deposit is usually non-refundable if you change your mind. That is why it is important to have some basic questions/requests answered (in writing) before putting any money down. (If you have a pet you must find out if the landlord allows pets, if you want to sublet you must know if your lease allows for subletting, etc.)
Become an informed consumer and an educated tenant. Know both your rights and your responsibilities. Read "Becoming a Tenant" information and the "Checklist for the Smart Tenant". The best time to negotiate the terms of your lease is before you sign and put money down. If repairs to the premises are needed and promised to you, write them into the lease with a time frame for their completion. The Office of Off-Campus Services provides lease review services.
Find out about your neighborhood and your rights and responsibilities as a resident in the community. As a resident in the community you need to follow certain rules regarding noise, partying, trash disposal and civilized behavior. Such rules are in most cases also written into your lease. Once your lease begins, meet your neighbors, join a neighborhood association. Your off-campus experience will be more rewarding, enjoyable and safer. Read our information about Living in the Community. Also note that the Student Code of Behavior is valid even if/when you choose to live off-campus. (See our GOOD TENANTS - GOOD NEIGHBORS information)
When you take possession of the premises fill out a move-in move-out checklist. If your landlord does not provide you with one use the OCS form, which you can download.
During your tenancy bring all the problems regarding your apartment/house to the attention of your landlord. It is your responsibility as a tenant to do so. Keep communication open. Make sure the landlord has provided you with ways of reaching him in case of an emergency and for any routine maintenance and repair problems. Follow up a call that has not been immediately responded to with a written note. If you get no response, send your letter certified mail, return receipt requested. This is how you are required to document your requests.
Keep the premises clean and remember that you are responsible for any damage done through misuse, abuse and negligence.
Give proper notice of lease termination and provide the landlord with written notification of your forwarding address for the return of your security deposit. Leave the apartment clean and remove your possessions. Ask the landlord to inspect the apartment with you before termination. If you have doubts about the return of your security deposit, document with pictures the condition of the premises before leaving. Wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord but delivering the premises clean and in a condition similar to the one at the beginning of the lease is yours. Remember that if you are sharing you can become responsible for the damage or rent of your roommate if he/she has failed to fulfill his/her obligations.
If you are an educated apartment consumer and a responsible tenant you can demand more of your landlord and help raise the standards of apartment living in University City.
If you have questions about living off-campus, you can find a lot of answers on our homepage at www.upenn.edu/offcampusservices. You can also call the office at any time before, during and after your tenancy. We hope that by following these guidelines you will make your off-campus living experience a happy one. Contact us with your comments about living off-campus. Call us at 215-898-8500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A wide range of housing options is available to the graduate and professional students at the University of Pennsylvania. You may choose to live on campus, in the high-rise apartment buildings at Sansom Place, or you can choose to live off-campus, as do most of the graduate and professional students at Penn. Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the United States, has a reputation as one of the most livable cities in the country, a major urban center that has retained the feel of a "city of neighborhoods". While rents have gone up significantly in the last several years, accompanying the urban renaissance the city has been experiencing, the cost of housing continues to be much more affordable than in other East Coast cities, such as Boston and New York. With a well-developed and well-coordinated mass transit system (SEPTA), many areas of the city and the suburbs are within easy commute. However, the Campus is ideally located at the eastern end of University City and in close proximity to the area known as Center City. The vast majority of graduate and professional students choose to live in Center City and University City, within easy reach of school, shopping, cultural and recreational attractions and outstanding restaurants.
How Can the Office of Off-Campus Services (OCS) help?
The University of Pennsylvania Office of Off-Campus Services (OCS), at Stouffer Commons, 3702 Spruce Street, phone number 215-898-8500, fax number 215-573-2061, is designed to assist students, staff and faculty at all stages of their off campus living experience, from locating suitable housing, to finding roommates, reviewing leases and assisting students in landlord tenant matters. You can access all our information on line, at www.upenn.edu/offcampusservices. When you are in town you can use the office as your base for your housing search. Our user-friendly office has computer terminals for your searches and telephones to call and set up appointments.
When to Start
In the last several years, due to a very tight rental market in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, and especially in the Center City and University City areas, it is not uncommon for graduate students to begin inquiries as early as January and the actual search in March/April. Companies that target the graduate student market will usually have information about available apartments as early as March. Other companies, however, will not know about availabilities, until 60 or 90 days before the new lease is supposed to start.
While most graduate students are probably interested in a late August or September 1st lease, it is important to be flexible about the beginning date of a lease, especially if it is a good apartment. The housing search season begins in March and goes on as late as the beginning of August. If you cannot visit Philadelphia to look for housing before late summer, you are still likely to find a place to live, but it may not be the best housing choice to make.
Situated within the area known as West Philadelphia, University City extends west to 50th Street and also includes the Powelton Village area North of Campus. Well over 5000 Penn students, graduate and undergraduate, rent apartments and houses in this area. While undergraduate students cluster in the area immediately west of Campus, to 42nd Street, graduate students tend to go farther west, all the way to 48th Street. Thousands of other Penn affiliates - staff, faculty, alumni - own homes or rent in the University City neighborhoods of Spruce Hill, Garden Court, Cedar Park, Squirrel Hill and Powelton Village.
University City is home to affiliates of other colleges and universities in the area (Drexel University, Philadelphia University of Sciences, Temple University).
The rental housing stock of University City consists mainly of Victorian homes converted into apartments and small, medium and large size apartment buildings. There are also three high-rise buildings, which are quite popular with graduate students, such as Chestnut Hall, The Fairfax and Garden Court Plaza. Prices in University City are lower than in Center City, and in the last couple of years several high-end options have been added to the University City housing stock, through renovation of old buildings or entire rows of Victorian homes converted into apartments. Due to the high demand for housing in the area, the steady increases in rents since 1998 have not always accompanied better quality of housing and housing services.
The Left Bank, at 31st and Walnut Streets, offers luxury apartments at prices comparable to Center City apartments of similar quality. 4111 Walnut building and many of the apartments along 41st and 42nd and Walnut Streets, owned and managed by Campus Apartments, have been recently renovated and, in terms of prices, the units are at the high end of the rental market in the area. Most recently, a new renovation at 40th and Pine Streets, Pine Arms, added another high quality housing options for the graduate students. In Powelton Village, the Old Quaker Building and the Courts Apartments offer comfortable apartments at prices among the highest in University City, yet lower than the Center City prices.
Most places in University City are within walking distance to your school (about 10-25 minutes) or a very short bike ride, if you prefer. The University of Pennsylvania Transit Services offers door-to-door services to the Penn affiliates who live in University City (including Powelton Village). This service is available between 6 pm and 7 am seven days a week and it is free with a Penn ID. The University also runs buses along established routes in the neighborhood. Some of the large area landlords run their own free shuttles to the campus area. (A. H. Klein Properties and Campus Apartments).
The University City area is home to many cultural institutions, and a large number of award-winning restaurants. Programs for clean and safe streets, marketing initiatives and many developments in retail and entertainment are making University City a choice destination for living and having fun. You can do your food shopping at one of the nicest supermarkets in town, The Fresh Grocer, at 40th and Walnut Streets, and you can go right across the street and watch one of 7 movies on show, at the luxury movie theater, Rave.
CENTER CITY and ART MUSEUM
Some of the most popular Center City neighborhoods are - Fitler Square and Rittenhouse Square (both west of Broad Street), Society Hill and Olde City (east of Broad Street). Center City housing is comprised of modern luxury apartment complexes and condos, brownstones and townhouses, row homes and warehouse apartment buildings. Center City is a popular choice for graduate students, and several thousand of them choose to live there, especially in the area west of Broad Street. Many of the students who live in Center City cite the existence of shops, cafes, movie theaters, and fitness facilities as the main attraction. High prices, difficulty in locating suitable units, parking and walking distance to/from campus have been cited as disadvantages. While street parking is not easily available, some apartment complexes offer indoor parking at additional cost. Many students who live in Center City use public transportation or bike to and from Campus. Penn Shuttle services and Penn bus services also operate in Center City to 20th Street. Check the Penn Transit website for details, at www.upenn.edu/transportation/schedules.html.
The Art Museum area has more reasonably priced high-rise apartments, brownstones and row homes. The area is not as easily accessible to/from the Penn Campus. There is no direct public transportation so you can either bike, use a car or plan to spend extra time going back and forth every day. Some apartment buildings offer their own shuttle services. For people who love the outdoors and want to bike and jog, the Fairmount Park nearby may represent a great advantage.
- A good way to find out about the choices available to students is to use the resources of the Office of Off-Campus Services. The interactive apartment search database will give you information about hundreds of available units in the areas that are of interest to you.
- Additionally, information about the major buildings in Center City and University City, with contact information, prices and timeframe for inquiry and application, is also available on line and in the office.
- You can also find information on available apartments at www.phillyweekly.com, the site of the Philadelphia Weekly, a free publication coming out every Wednesday.
- Electronic newsgroups often post listings of available apartments or sublets and shares. Access to newsgroups is restricted to persons with Penn email accounts.
- Once you have narrowed down your choices, visit the units that match your needs, if this is possible. Compile a list of advantages or disadvantages for each, so you can make the decision easier. If/when you fill out an application and put a deposit down, that deposit is often non-refundable if you change your mind. That is why it is important to have some basic questions/requests answered before putting any money down. If you make the decision to rent after obtaining the information over the Internet, make sure you ask detailed questions about the property, obtain pictures, and, if at all possible, have a friend visit the place for you. Written correspondence in situations like this is important.
- In preparing for the application process, remember that the landlord will run a credit check on you and that he may require proof of income. Certain buildings in Center City have very stringent income requirements and they may ask for a co-signer to the lease.
- Keep in mind that this tight market is a landlord market and that the tenants may not be able to negotiate the lease. Once signed, the lease is a legally binding document and breaking the lease without financial loss is only possible if you or the landlord can secure another tenant for the apartment.
- If a lease contains illegal clauses, they are not enforceable, unfair clauses, however, can be. Regardless of what the lease says, remember that the law requires that landlords provide a safe and healthy unit, in compliance with the requirements of the Housing Code. Being an informed consumer and knowing what your rights are and the correct procedures when you encounter problems is very important for a pleasant Off-Campus Services experience. You can always contact our office for more information or assistance.
- Become an informed consumer and an educated tenant. Know both your rights and your responsibilities. Check our information on becoming a tenant, leases, security deposits, tenant's rights and responsibilities. Even if you are not able to do much negotiation at the beginning of the lease, you will still be protected by the landlord tenant law, by federal, state and local ordinances and the property maintenance code requirements valid in Philadelphia. If you have questions about your lease or about tenants' rights and responsibilities, contact our office for guidance.
- When you take possession of the premises fill out a move-in move-out checklist. If your landlord does not provide you with one, use the OCS form, which you can also download from our website. During your tenancy bring all the problems regarding your apartment/house to the attention of your landlord. It is your responsibility as a tenant to do so. Keep communication open. Make sure the landlord has provided you with ways of reaching him in case of an emergency and for any routine maintenance and repair problems. Follow up a call that has not been immediately responded to with a written note. . If you get no response, send your letter certified mail, return receipt requested. This is how you are required to document your requests. Keep the premises clean and remember that you are responsible for any damage done through misuse, abuse and negligence.
- Give proper notice of lease termination and provide the landlord with written notification of your forwarding address for the return of your security deposit. Leave the apartment clean and remove your possessions. Ask the landlord to inspect the apartment with you before termination. If you have doubts about the return of your security deposit, document with pictures the condition of the premises before leaving. Wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord but delivering the premises clean and in a condition similar to the one at the beginning of the lease is yours. Remember that if you are sharing, you can become responsible for the damage or rent of your roommate if he/she has failed to fulfill his/her obligations.
If you have followed all the recommendations above and you do not hear from your landlord within 30 days, you can claim double the amount if you take the matter to court. Call us for more information.