Rather than buying a house, most students decide to either lease or rent apartments or houses. A rental agreement, is a short-term, renewing contract, usually a month-to-month contract. Rental agreements are not common in Lawrence. Leases are a much more common option in Lawrence and gives tenants permission to live in a residence for a fixed period of time. Most leases in Lawrence are year-long leases that can be renewed for additional years, but shorter leases can be found as well.
Never pay money or sign a lease contract without physically viewing the property. This means that you will not find long-term housing until after your arrival. You may want to stay in a hotel or with friends the first nights you are in Lawrence, so you can look at properties in person. Your visa category might allow you to enter the U.S. early. If possible, we strongly recommend you do so to use that time find a place to live.
Many students realize that in Lawrence owning a car makes life much easier because most places are too far to walk to. This means that, if you don’t own a car, using public transportation becomes important, and finding a home close to public transportation options is equally important. Public transportation in Lawrence is limited to a bus system, taxis, and uber. It is designed to follow the school schedule. This means that during the semester, Monday through Friday, buses are very frequent. However, on Saturday they are not as frequent and there is no bus service on Sundays. Many of our students and scholars decide to live farther away from campus and take the bus to campus Monday through Friday and live within walking distance to grocery stores and recreation areas.
Neighborhood safety is also important when choosing a place to live. The Lawrence Police Department has put together an interactive crime map, so you can check the safety of neighborhoods you are considering.
Finally, if you have school-age children, you may want to consider the school boundaries. If your children will be attending public schools, what neighborhood you live in will decide which school they will attend. If you have a school you prefer, you should check the School Boundary Map.
The following are websites (not affiliated with KU) where you can search apartment postings. If possible, take a friend with you when viewing apartments.
This is Lawrence’s local newspaper. Look under the classifieds->Rentals->unfurnished apartments. This is one of the best sources for off-campus housing.
This is a website where you can search for apartments. Remember that most apartments are unfurnished, and utilities such as electricity, gas, cable television and water are often NOT included in rent.
You can find more information about searching for off-campus housing here.
If you are in Lawrence and need to access a computer to start your housing search, there are computers that are open to the public both in the Lawrence Public Library and any of KU’s libraries.
- Have a cell phone and laptop computer to inquire about vacancies that become available. Many apartment leasing offices do not answer calls and have voicemail or email only. You will need the phone to receive those returned messages. You may want to prepare a script when leaving telephone messages for the landlord, mentioning that you are a new employee or scholar at KU and that you are interested in the property.
- Rent or borrow a car if you have a license. Your search will go faster if you drive.
- Get familiar with housing vocabulary (see Housing Terms Glossary).
- Become familiar with names of neighborhoods. Look for housing in a neighborhood near campus where you will be working or studying, or along public transportation lines to make your commute more convenient since parking is difficult to find.
- Walk or drive around neighborhoods you like and look for “For Rent / For Lease” signs posted in the window or front yard of houses and apartments.
- Drive/walk by to see the places you are interested in to find out what the exterior and neighborhood look like before making an appointment for viewing. When you find something you like, do not hesitate to let the landlord know immediately that you are interested. Have a check or money order ready to pay the deposit.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask your potential landlord:
- What utilities are included in the rent (water, gas, electricity, garbage, cable, and/or internet)?
- What is the cost of gas and electricity per month?
- When will the apartment be available (when is the first day I can move in)?
- How much is the security deposit?
- What parking is available?
- Are laundry facilities located on site?
- Most apartments are unfurnished. You can purchase large furniture items (bed, dresser, tables, chairs, etc.) and have them delivered (for a fee). This is very often cheaper than renting a car to pick up items, and you can schedule when they will be delivered.
KU does not provide or help you find an off campus housing option. It is your responsibility to find housing. When searching for off-campus housing, you may look for a room, studio, apartment or house. The prices vary depending upon the type of housing; $400-$700 for a studio; $500-$800 for a single bedroom apartment and $600-$1100 for a two bedroom apartment. You may have to pay extra for utilities such as electricity, internet, cable, etc.
For general tips on leasing in Lawrence, please view the Leasing Tips provided by Legal Services for Students at KU.
It is important to consider purchasing renters insurance while in the United States. Generally, a landlord is not legally responsible for loss or damage to a renter's property. Also, if a renter causes damage to the landlord's property, even unintentionally, the landlord may have the right to hold the renter financially responsible. In both of these cases, renters insurance would protect the renter from having to pay potentially very large amounts of money. There are many insurance companies, so be sure to shop around.
There are various things you should consider when shopping for renters insurance. For more information on what to consider, click here.
For information on average prices of renters insurance, click here.
While some utilities may be paid for by your landlord, depending on where you live, they may not be. It is important to ask which utilities are included in rent when looking for housing. You will have to set up any utilities that are not included yourself.
Gas - Black Hills Energy
Electricity - Westar Energy
Contact the company as soon as possible, once you have a permanent address and know what day you want your service to begin. Most homes and apartments in the area are heated by natural gas, but most appliances are run on electricity. Check with your landlord to see if natural gas is used in your home or apartment. If it is not, you do not have to worry about setting up that service.
Water - Water is often paid for by the landlord. If you arrange your own water service, contact the municipal water district in Lawrence.
Garbage and Recycling - Most landlords also provide garbage service. Be sure to ask about this before signing the lease because these are not optional services. If they are not provided by your landlord, you will need to set up and pay for them yourself. In most cases, the water and garbage service are billed together.
There are currently two internet and cable companies that provide service in Lawrence. Internet and cable service may be included in your lease.
Some apartments are already wired for a certain internet/cable company. If this is the case, you must use that company if you want internet or cable. If your apartment or home is not wired for a certain company, you can compare services and rates and choose between companies.
When looking for furniture, it is possible to buy it new and have it shipped to your residence (which is often both easier and cheaper than renting a car and moving it yourself), or there are various ways to get cheap, used items.
Thrift stores are stores that sell second-hand items, usually to benefit a certain charity. While the majority of their products tend to be clothing or small household items and appliances, many also have a small selection of furniture. These are some of the most popular thrift shops in Lawrence:
Salvation Army: 1601 W 23rd Street
Goodwill: 2200 W 31st Street
St. John’s Rummage House: 1246 Kentucky Street
Social Service League: 905 Rhode Island Street
A garage sale is when people sell items they no longer need informally at their home. These sales usually take place in the garage of a house or in the front yard, hence the name. In Lawrence, people can have garage sales at any times. They are a great way to get a variety of items (including furniture) for a low price. To see what garage sales are going on in Lawrence, check the garage sale section of the Lawrence Journal World classifieds.
Craigslist is a popular website for selling everything from cars to furniture. It can be a great place to search for used furniture at low prices, but most sellers will require for you to move the furniture yourself. Be careful to always check items in person before buying and to never go to a stranger’s house alone.
When using Craigslist, it is important to be careful of scams, as not all deals on Craigslist are real. Please familiarize yourself with Craigslist’s information on how to protect yourself from scams before purchasing anything from Craigslist.
For an in-depth view of tenant rights and landlord responsibilities check the Kansas Legal Services handbook.
If you experience landlord/tenant issues and feel that legal action may be necessary, contact KU’s Legal Services for Students.
Review the Lease
Carefully review all conditions before you sign the lease. Your lease or rental agreement may contain a provision that you find unacceptable – for example, restrictions on guests, pets, design alterations or running a home business. If you have questions, ask the landlord or someone in your department.
KU Legal Services for Students has put together a list of things to look out for in your lease that you can find here.
Get Everything in Writing
To avoid disputes or misunderstandings with your landlord, get everything in writing. Keep copies of all correspondence and follow up on oral agreements with a letter, setting out your understandings. For example, if you ask your landlord to make repairs put your request in writing and keep a copy for yourself.
Protect your Privacy Rights
Understand your privacy rights (for example, the amount of notice your landlord must provide before entering), it will be easier to protect them.
Know your rights to live in a habitable rental unit, and do not give them up as indicated here. The vast majority of landlords are required to offer their tenants livable premises, including adequate weatherproofing, heat, water, electricity and clean and structurally safe premises. If your rental unit is not kept in good repair, you have a number of options, ranging from deducting the cost from your rent, to calling the building inspector (who may order the landlord to make repairs), to moving out without a liability.
Talk to your Landlord
Keep communication open with your landlord. If there is a problem – for example, if the landlord is slow to make repairs – talk it over to see if the issue can be resolved short of a nasty legal battle.
Protect your Security Deposit
To avoid any misunderstandings, make sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the use or refund of security deposits. When you move in, walk through the premises with the landlord to record existing damage. Many apartments will give you a checklist to record the condition of the apartment when you move in. If they don’t, feel free to use this checklist. Also, be sure to get pictures of any damage you find when you move in, so you will not be billed for the repairs later.
The Lawrence Human Relations Commission and Human Relations Division of the City of Lawrence is a civil rights enforcement agency. It investigates complaints from persons alleging they have been discriminated against in housing because of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity in addition to familial status in housing.
If you think you are a victim of housing discrimination, the city of Lawrence Fair Housing website has good information on recognizing discrimination and what to do.