The Rental Process.
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For the most up to date information regarding living, renting, or buying in Boston check out our blog section.
Questions about renting in Boston? We put together this list of frequently asked questions that renters typically ask. If you have other specific questions don't hesitate to contact us!
Our apartment inventory stems from a vast network of sources. We rent apartments that our company directly manages (exclusive to A&S Realty), apartments listed by other management companies, apartments that are privately owned and managed by the landlord, condominiums that are for rent, apartments shared by other real estate firms, and apartments listed through the multiple listing service (MLS). As you can see, our rentals come from a variety of sources so that we are able to provide you the largest and best selection possible.
You may have heard about Boston’s September 1st lease cycles that a lot of the apartments operate on. There are over 100 colleges & universities in the greater Boston area, most of which start classes the first or second week of September. As a result of the semester schedules (and partly because of our climate), landlords took note of the demand for September apartments and thus the September rent cycle was born. Most private apartments operate around this cycle, but large apartment buildings or complexes may operate on a different cycle.
Tip: For the best selection of apartments try to plan for a 9/1 move in date if possible.
With the exception of a September 1st move date, we recommend starting your search 45-60 days prior to when you want to move in. If you are looking for a September 1st apartment we recommend starting your search as early as January 1st.
If you are wanting to see a bunch of apartments back to back then the best time to plan is Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. We understand if you work days it’s more convenient to see places after work or on weekends, however a lot of management companies that hold keys to apartments are not open past 5pm or on weekends, so it will limit the number of places you will be able to see in one trip.
Note: Most leases will start on the 1st of any given month, or in some cases the 15th of a month.
A broker fee is a professional fee paid to a rental agency for helping you identify, locate, and secure an apartment (which essentially means signing a lease). Your rental agent will work with you from the moment you first start your search to the day you move in.
Broker fees in Boston are generally equal to one month’s rent. Depending on the season and current market conditions, you may find reduced fee apartments as well.
Every rental agency in Massachusetts is required to disclose their fee to you (see Fee Disclosure Form) before you look at any properties. You do not need to pay your agent anything if he/she is unsuccessful in securing you an apartment. The broker fee is also a one time fee, meaning if you renew your lease you will not be required to pay another broker fee for the same apartment.
The cost to secure an apartment will vary from landlord to landlord, but here are the up front costs we see most frequently:
- First month’s rent (paid as your deposit at time of application)
- Last month’s rent (paid up front, but used at the end of the lease term)
- Security deposit (will not exceed 1 month, could be less)
- Key/lock deposit (generally $75-100)
- Broker fee (will not exceed 1 month, could be less)
Not all landlords will charge all of these fees up front. Some may take first, last & security. Others may only take first month and security and forego last month’s rent. Depending on the building you are moving into there may also be other fees such as an amenity fee or a move in/move out fee(s). These charges will vary and will be disclosed up front. To be safe it’s best to budget 3 to 4 month’s rent to secure an apartment.
Great, you’ve found an apartment that you like! The next step would be to fill out and submit a rental application (similar to this application), along with a deposit which is usually equivalent to one month’s rent. A landlord may also ask for a copy of your photo ID, credit report, employment/student verification, former landlord references, and/or a co-signer before accepting your application. Once your application has been accepted a lease will be prepared and signed, and all remaining funds will be finalized to secure you the apartment.
Tip: Generally landlords do not negotiate pricing, terms, etc. until they have seen a perspective tenant’s application and proof of a deposit. So make sure if you are negotiating for different terms that you include them on your application, or in a cover letter.
Most landlords will want to see your income to be at least 36x the monthly rent, a good credit report, verification of your employment history, and a positive previous landlord reference. If you feel that you do not meet any or all of these criteria you MAY need a co-signer. Students will almost always need a co-signer. Co-signers will be required to fill out a separate guarantor form and provide similar credit and income worthiness to show that they can both support themselves and the person they are co-signing for.
Tip: If you think you might need a co-signer it helps to identify and ask that person before you begin your search so they are prepared and ready to go when it’s time to apply for an apartment. If you are unsure as to whether you may or may not need one, contact us and we will be happy to help.
For the up front costs (first month, last month, security deposit, broker fee) plan to have cleared funds available, especially if your move in date is within 30 days. Cleared funds would include certified bank checks, wire transfers, money orders, cash, or in some cases credit/debit cards. Note: personal checks are NOT considered cleared funds.
Once you move into an apartment your rent payments are generally paid by personal check, however a large number of complexes and tech-savvy landlords are beginning to accept ACH or electronic transfers for rent as well. Ask your landlord or rental agent what options are available for your rent payments.
Tip: Since up front costs generally require cleared funds it’s best to transfer your money around prior to your search so that it’s liquid and accessible when you are ready to apply for an apartment. Make sure your bank has a local branch as well, or prepare to move 3-4 months worth of funds to a local bank before starting your search.
If you are looking to find an apartment with other roommates it’s always best to know who you want to room with before you start looking. Most real estate agencies will not match roommates, and most landlords will not sign a lease without all parties having been identified (ie. signing a 3 bedroom lease to 2 people with a 3rd roommate to be identified later).
Tip: When searching with roommates try to find a time that works for everyone to see the apartment(s) at the same time. We find that many times groups will lose out on apartments simply because they couldn’t all get in to see it in time. Also make sure all your roommates are on the same page in terms of budget, location, wants/needs, etc. You will want to discuss this in detail up front BEFORE you go to look at places. It’s best to know ahead of time who will have the limiting budget, who will take the smallest bedroom, etc.
Generally speaking, a lease break is when you want to permanently get out of your contractual obligation for an apartment and be removed from your lease duties. A sublease (or sublet) on the other hand is a temporary change in tenancy where you would remain on the lease, but re-lease the space to someone else for a short period of time.
Note: Most standard form leases in Boston will not allow you to break a lease or sublease an apartment without the owner’s written permission. There could be penalties or fines if you do not fulfill your obligation under a lease.
Sometimes your life’s plan changes. It’s best to know up front what your options are in the case of a job transfer, family emergency, etc. All landlords handle lease breaks differently. Some will let you just walk away from your lease in exchange for a lease termination fee (typically 2 month’s rent). Others will not charge you a fee (or a minimal paperwork fee), but will require you to find another suitable, approved, replacement tenant to take over the remainder of your lease.
It’s best to ask your landlord up front what the procedures are for this scenario so that you know. Remember that a lease obligates you to pay rent for the entire length of the lease term, so breaking a lease is a priveledge not a right.
Similar to a lease break, it’s best to ask your landlord up front what happens in situations where you want or need to sublease your apartment temporarily to someone else. Some owners will allow subleasing, while others will not. If the landlord does allow you to sublease be prepared to take on the work of finding a replacement tenant on your own, and making sure that they will be approved by the landlord. Remember, subleasing is a priveledge not a right.
Most rentals you see advertised on our website will be considered long term (typically 12 months or longer) unfurnished rentals. If you need the flexibility of a short term or month-to-month rental you should contact us. Depending on the season and availability we may be able to help you, or we may need to refer you to a company that specialized in short term and flexible leasing options.
Most long term apartments in Boston (6 months or more) are leased without furnishings (with the exception of most kitchen appliances). Typically a furnished apartment would also be a short term apartment, the two generally go hand in hand. Depending on the season and availability we may be able to help you find a furnished apartment, or we may need to refer you to a company that specialized in furnished short term and flexible leasing options.
Tip: If you want to lease an apartment for a long term but want furnishings you could consider renting furniture. We work with a few furniture rental companies that will furnish your apartment for a small monthly fee. This option will generally be less costly than paying the premium for a short term furnished option, especially if you are in Boston for more than 6 months.
If you cannot arrange to take a trip to Boston to view apartments your rental agent can help. Some landlords will allow this type of rental, and others will not. Your agent will be able to find out which ones will work for you, and can take pictures and video tours for you before committing to an apartment from afar. We would also recommend having a friend or family member view the apartment on your behalf (if possible).
Boston is known as an historic city, a college influenced city, even as Beantown. However, if you are a renter, Boston is not known as a pet friendly city. The truth is most landlords in Boston do not want pets in their unit(s), and since demand for apartments is generally high they do not need to make exceptions to their rules…there is usually another qualified pet-free applicant right behind you. Finding a pet friendly apartment has its challenges, but we will do our best to help you locate an apartment that you and your furry, scaly, or feathered friend can call home.
The first question to ask yourself when living in Boston is “do I need my car?” Chances are that if you live and work/study in the downtown areas keeping a car in the city will become more of a headache (and more expensive) than not having one. Boston has adopted some great services to help those without cars such as Hubway bike share, ZipCar rental service, and a great public transportation system. Check out our parking info page for more information on these services.
However, if you do have a car and need parking there are many options such as resident street parking, private alley spaces, and garages. Speak with your agent about the advantages and disadvantages of each option to find a parking solution that works for you.
Note: Most apartments will not include parking, it is almost always additional in the downtown Boston area. Most brownstones will not have parking options available, buy many high rise buildings will have garages connected to them.
Keep in mind that Boston is an old, historic city, and a lot of the buildings were single family brownstones (built in the early 1800’s – early 1900’s) that were later converted into condos or apartments. For that reason there are a lot of amenities that may not be considered “standard”. For example, parking, elevators, central A/C, dishwashers, and on site laundry machines are not necessarily standard amenities. However, what brownstones lack in amenities sometimes they make up for in charm. Bay windows, ornate mouldings, high ceilings, and gorgeous fireplaces are prevalent in downtown Boston.
Tip: If you are looking for a building that houses numerous amenities consider a high rise building or complex style apartment building or condo. These newer, more modern buildings will often have elevators, doorman, concierge, parking, roof decks, fitness centers & more, whereas a brownstone building (although charming) may lack some or most of these amenities.
On most buildings in Boston you can expect to pay for electricity (lights, appliances, electronics) and often water/hot water will be included in the rent. The big utility to look for is the heating, is it included or not included?
If heat is included in your rent it is likely a centralized heating system for the entire building (steam radiators or hot water baseboard usually) which would mean that it’s included in your rent, but you don’t get to control it either.
If heat is not included in your rent it means you have your own individual heating system that you get to control via thermostats. These systems are usually either individual gas boilers (hot water baseboard) or electric heat (electric baseboard).
Tip: Don’t let an apartment where you pay for heat scare you! Most times when an apartment doesn’t include heat the rent will be adjusted lower than a comparable apartment that would include heat in order to offset the added utility costs.
These are some of the forms you may encounter when renting an apartment in Boston. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with these forms prior to signing a lease, or feel free to contact your rental agent with any questions.