Check move-in dates
Find apartments with a move-in date of August 1st. Orientation begins Monday, August 12th, and classes begin Monday August 19th. Move in well beforehand to get settled. If you plan on petitioning for in-state tuition, move in according to NIU residency deadlines. For more information, visit www.niu.edu/regrec/residency/index.shtml.
Familiarize yourself with a standard lease
If you search online for “apartment lease,” followed by your state, you should be able to find a boilerplate lease. The lease you end up signing will probably differ in details, such as whether or not pets are allowed, how much of a security deposit you have to pay, or what happens if you break your lease. If you know what a lease looks like in advance, you won’t feel confused when you read specific leases.
Keep a copy of all paperwork
When you first sign a lease and move into your new apartment, you’ll not only get a copy of the lease but probably will receive information on local services, maintenance, numbers you can call in case of emergency, and the bank information for your security deposit. Find a place to store all this paperwork for future reference, and keep it until you receive your security deposit back.
Consider Renter’s Insurance
Renter’s insurance is a low-cost option that provides comprehensive coverage. Your personal belongings are insured in case of fire, flood, theft, or other property damage. Remember that the policy will also cover your liability in case of damages caused by others on your property.
Carefully inspect the apartment with the manager or landlord before you move in. When you first move in, complete an apartment condition checklist and list all existing damage. Keep time-stamped photos of each room, and document any damages. Both you and the manager/landlord should sign and date this list. Sign it yourself, and provide a copy to the manager/landlord. You will be expected to leave the apartment in the same condition as it was when you took occupancy, minus reasonable wear-and-tear.
Maintain the property
While living at your new apartment, make sure to maintain it well. If something breaks, contact your maintenance company immediately to fix it. If you have to fix anything while living there, take pictures, keep receipts, and create an itemized list of anything you’ve done yourself. Keep a paper trail of any repair requests you’ve sent to the management company as well, and keep it until you receive your deposit back.
Get in writing how soon after you move out you will receive your security deposit and where your security deposit is stored. In Illinois, security deposits are typically returned within 30-45 days after moving out. When moving in, ask for the date your deposit will be sent to you, and keep a copy for your records. If a landlord tries to hold your security deposit, demand an itemized list of the reasons. Scrutinize it for redundancy. For instance, a landlord can't charge you to clean a carpet and then to replace a carpet. If you believe that any part of your security deposit was wrongfully withheld, contact the Office of Students’ Legal Assistance for help.