Houston — A Renting Guide

Lovett Hall, Rice University, Houston

Houston is a big Texas town and is famous for NASA headquarters although that is quite far away from the city. It is famous for two universities: Rice University and University of Houston. Both are side-by-side. Living here is not that expensive; real estate is economical and so is the travelling. Weather remains warm around the year. Grocery stores are easily available within 500m across most towns.

Commuting: Houston is a proper texan town which means public transport is not as great as metros and almost everyone has cars. Uber/Lyft run and are quite frequently available although regular usage might be expensive. So if you are living far from university its best to take a bus. Walking a few miles is considered normal though.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) provides public transportation in the form of buses, light rail, and lift vans. METRO in Houston is an expanding affair and the whole city will soon be connected conveniently with the fast trams and buses running on various routes. Bus fares for students are mostly sponsored by the university, otherwise it costs 50¢-1$ from anywhere to anywhere. Houston BCycle is a “bike sharing” program that lets you rent a bike to commute around the city, it is a functional and practical approach to travelling. The downtown community can utilise the free of cost environmentally friendly buses — Greenlink, to get to popular downtown locations quickly. The route connects major office buildings along Smith and Louisiana streets to METRO.

The crime rate in Houston is on the higher side of the curve. Generally not advised to roam around late at night if you are not in city centre.

Airport is quite far from the city and its best to book a bus(https://www.supershuttle.com/) from airport to city centre.

Popular Locations

Following are some localities that student prefer while searching for accommodation:

  • Memorial Park
  • Downtown
  • MacGregor
  • Breaswood Place
  • Stafford

Housing Options

There are various to consider in respect to student accommodation (both on-campus and off-campus). Following are some of the most prevalent housing options that are available to students looking for housing:

University Residence Halls: Hostels or Dormitories that are managed by the University. These options are provide expedient access to the amenities rendered by the college on its campus.

Private Student Housing: This kind of accommodation is off campus. Most students share rooms in this scenario. There are many configurations available and the respective terms are as follows: 1b (1 bed), 1b1b (1 bed 1 bath), 2b (2 bed) etc. You can also find studio apartments — These kinds of apartments typically consist of one large room which serves as the living, dining, and bedroom. Kitchen facilities may either be located in the central room, or in a small separate room, and the bathroom is usually in its own smaller room.

Home Stay Accommodation: Under age students who are not eligible to live alone opt for this kind of housing. They stay with a family. These accommodations are in close proximity to the campus grounds.

Generally on-campus accommodations are limited in number and also relatively expensive as compared to off-campus accommodations and also have restrictions in place. Most international students applying for higher studies opt for off-campus accommodation to save extra Rental Costs as this is a major part of the total living expense.

Student housing options with furnishing are usually a little expensive than their unfurnished counterparts. Hence it is suggested that you opt for an unfurnished apartment and rent or free-cycle the furniture as per your needs. Renting furniture costs can go upto $100 to $200 per month. You can rent furniture via these services — Brook Furniture Rental , Hoffer Furniture.

Security is an important aspect of choosing an accommodation. Some housing societies provide additional security by gating its premises and prohibiting entry to outsiders. Automatic burglar alarms are also an additional feature you can look for safety.

Guidelines to Choose a Roommate:

Ask yourself these questions while deciding on your roommate:

  • Do they have a reliable source of income to pay rent and utility bills?
  • Do they have pets?
  • Can you trust them to be around your personal belongings?
  • Are they willing to sign a lease and abide by the terms and conditions?
  • How do you plan to split up home responsibilities?
  • Who will they have over as guests?

Usually, room sharing is closed over Whatsapp groups or social media.

Amenities to Look for

  • Apartment Amenities: Wifi, Microwave, Heater, Refrigerator, Storage, Washer, Dryer, Fireplace. These amenities are basic needs and it is strongly suggested that you look for an accommodations that fulfil the basic appliances and services.
  • Community Amenities: BBQ, Swimming pool, Fitness Centre, Study Area, Garage, Courtyard, Bike Storage, Public Transportation, Laundry, Pet Policy

Common Issues

  • Bed Bugs — These are common. To prevent bed bugs you can avoid using used/old mattresses.
  • Roaches — Safety against roaches can be assured by making sure that the pest control is carried out before you moved in.
  • Commuting — Here’s a link to sort your travelling out in Houston.
  • Unsafe area — Walk Score is one website to check the safety score of localities. You can visit here.
  • Language or cross cultural barriers — Certain accommodations provide single community housing.

Leasing Terms

Deposit: Is a security fee that is paid to the landlord in terms of a fixed amount of money. Deposit is refundable at the end of your stay tenure. Average amount for deposits is $50 to $300 (or in some cases one month’s rent).

Application Fee: A fixed amount ranging from $25 per person to $75 per person. This is a non-refundable amount even if you have paid it already and then cancelled the booking.

Admin Fee: Selective apartment owners levy this charge on the renters it is a non-refundable amount ranging from $50 to $200. This fee is contributed by everyone who is renting the apartment. The refund policy is similar to the application fee.

Pet Charges: Varies from apartment to apartment. Can range from $3 to $10 per month per pet.

Wait List Charge: An amount that needs to be given to the apartment to lock your request. For some popular apartments there are wait-list charges (token money) that you have to deposit. It is a non-refundable amount, but for certain apartments.

Booking Charges: The total cost that you end up paying at the time of booking stacks up as follows: Deposit + Application Fee (per person) + Admin Fee + Pet Charges (per pet). In certain cases the apartment may also ask for the first month’s rent.

Social Security Number (SSN): If you are a US resident you need to have a Social Security number to get an apartment on rent. SSN is linked to your credit history report which is

Credit Score:It is a number that depicts a person’s creditworthiness based on past financial history. If you have an impressive credit score the amount for deposit significantly decreases. Some apartments may have a minimum threshold credit score to make you an eligible renter.

Number of Tenants: The max number of people who can stay in an apartment is mostly mentioned in the apartment guidelines. Generally, 2 students are allowed per room (1b — max. 2 students, 2b — max. 4 students) in the apartment. Often, to save rental costs, students accommodate guests for permanent basis without informing the apartment management. This is not advised and may lead to cancellation of your lease agreement. However, you can accommodate guests for temporary basis without any issues.

Lease Duration: In formal leasing agreements, rental periods typically break down accordingly:

  • One-year lease
  • Six-month lease
  • Three-month lease
  • Month-to-month lease

Usually a longer leasing period will significantly drop your monthly rent amount. Abandoning a lease can mean serious financial and legal consequences.

Guarantor: In certain cases, the landlord/housing management may require a lease guarantor which acts as a third party to help provide security in terms of the rental. You can get concession in deposits if you have a guarantor.

Lock-In Period: A minimum fixed amount of time before which if the rental agreement is broken, then the tenant won’t get refunds on deposit. The lock-in period varies and is mentioned clearly in the lease agreement.

Agreement Document Requirements: Following are the documents required to process the rental agreement:

  • i20 (mandatory)
  • Passport (mandatory)
  • Visa (mandatory)
  • Bank Statement (in certain cases)
  • Credit Score (in certain cases)

The agreement needs to be attested (digitally signed or hand-signed soft copy) along with the verification documents for each of the boarders mentioned on the lease agreement.

Rent and Utility Pricing

  • For 1 bed 1 bath — $600-$1200
  • For 2 bed 2 bath — $800-$1500
  • For 3 bed (2 or 3 bath) — $1400–$1900
  • Deposit Range (1 months rent) — $50-$300

Utility, Water and Gas bills are exclusive. Here are the average costs of some of the expenses:

Cost of Utility Items

Popular Apartments

(links here are clickable)

You can browse more accommodations in Dallas and surrounding areas via this link: Click Here

How AmberStudent will help you

AmberStudent provides you with free of cost assistance for apartment search near UH, to make your renting experience easy. The representatives help you find the perfect apartment as per your preferences. With over 100+ apartments around UH you can pick the accommodation of your choice at affordable prices.

Campus Map — University of Houston
Campus Map — Rice University

-Jashanpreet Kaur Mangat