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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I search for off-campus housing around Syracuse University?
There are a number of rental units available in the University area.  One of the best sources for advice and information about off-campus housing are your friends and classmates.  If you know people who live off campus, ask them about where they live and about the pros and cons of living off campus.  By asking around, you can find out if any of your friends or classmates are moving out of a great apartment that you can move into. Another good place to start your search may be Orange Housing.  Orange Housing maintains the web site for apartment offerings in the neighborhoods adjacent to campus.  It is important to keep in mind that this local company is not affiliated with Syracuse University or SUNY ESF.  There are absolutely no guarantees about the quality and reliability of the information posted on the website, so it is very important to visit an apartment and meet the landlord before you agree to rent it!  Orange Housing also offers roommate searches, sublet listings, and information relevant to apartment hunters. Apartment listings can be found in local newspapers as well as in the Daily Orange and in the Apartment Finder, this resource provides information about apartment complexes throughout the Syracuse area.  The Apartment Hunting Checklist will also help you guide your search.

Can OCCS tell me what apartments and landlords are good?
OCCS does not maintain any information about the quality (good or bad) of a certain apartment or landlord, and OCCS cannot provide you with this type of information.  But, there are other ways you can discover this information.  When you find a place you like, don’t be shy about asking the current tenants if they have had a good experience living there.  Current tenants are in the best position to give you information about potential problems you may encounter with an apartment or a landlord if you decide to move in. OCCS also maintains a history of comments about landlords in our office at 754 Ostrom Ave.  The Landlord Information Sharing Program provides a written record of positive and negative comments that students have filed about a particular landlord and any written response from the landlord.  Files are organized by landlord and include a history of all comments that have been filed about a particular landlord and the landlord’s responses (or failures to respond).  This resource allows you to compare different landlords’ records, and you can use this information as one factor in making a final decision about where to live.  It is useful to evaluate the number of complaints a landlord has received, but also the substance of the complaints and landlord’s responsiveness to the issues.

Can first-year and second-year students live off campus at Syracuse University?
No.  All first- and second-year undergraduate students (except students with families and commuting students) must live on campus. Only upper-class and graduate students may rent apartments off campus. Off-campus apartments are not managed by the University but by private property owners.  Students may not cancel their housing to live off campus unless they are released from their commitment.  First-year students at SUNY ESF are required to live in Centennial Hall. After the first year, students may continue to live in Centennial Hall, space permitting, or move off campus.

Is it cheaper to live off campus or on campus?

The answer to this question depends on many variables.  In addition to just dollar amounts, you need to think about the other differences between on- and off-campus housing that could make one a better option for you.  For example, if you live off campus you may need to sign a 12-month lease.  In comparison, if you live on campus, your housing contract only applies to the academic year.  Depending on your personal situation, one of these two options may be preferable. The cost to live on campus varies by where you live.  Information about costs to live on campus can be obtained from the Office of Housing, Meal Plan, and I.D. Card Services website at housingmealplans.syr.edu.  Remember, these housing costs include ALL utilities, as well as local phone service, cable, and a high-speed Internet connection. 

The cost to live off campus also varies a great deal.  Some factors that will affect the amount of rent you pay are:

  • How close you want to live to campus.
  • How many bedrooms are in the house or apartment.
  • How many people are sharing the cost.
  • Whether the unit is furnished or not.
  • Which utilities are included in your rent.
  • Whether or not parking is included. 

In addition to your rent, it is very important to consider the other costs that you will be responsible for as an off-campus renter:  utilities such as heat, electricity, hot water (if not included), cable, internet connection, and phone service. Preparing a budgeting worksheet may help you decide what is best for you.  Here is a copy of the personal finances worksheet


Is there a limit to the number of roommates or housemates I can have?
Yes. The City of Syracuse Property Code limits the number of unrelated individuals who can live in a house.  In the area surrounding campus, generally no more than five unrelated individuals can live in a house.  There are exceptions to this rule, so it may be useful to contact the City of Syracuse Code Enforcement Division to check on how many individuals can live in an apartment that you are considering renting.  You can contact them at 315-448-8695 or Code Enforcement. Before you sign a lease, you can have it reviewed for free by Student Legal Services.  All matriculated SU and ESF students, except law students and University College students, are eligible to use Student Legal Services.  Attorneys at Student Legal Services offer free advice and consultation on all legal problems and representation for certain legal problems.  Call 315-443-4532 or write to email@studentlegal.net for an appointment, or stop by their office at 760 Ostrom Avenue. 

If I decide to live off-campus will it affect my financial aid?
According to the Financial Aid Office, as long as you're not living at home with your parent(s), you receive the same amount of financial aid whether you live in a residence hall or in an off-campus apartment.  Any financial aid in excess of your bursar bill can be refunded to you to meet off campus expenses such as rent, food, etc.  Students living at home with their parent(s) are considered commuters and have a lower “Cost of Attendance” and receive less aid, as they do not incur room expenses. For more information on this topic you can contact the Financial Aid Office at 315-443-1513 or visit their website at Financial Aid.

How can I find a roommate?

A good place to start your search may be Orange Housing.  Orange Housing maintains a website that includes roommate search postings. It is important to keep in mind that this local company is not affiliated with Syracuse University or SUNY ESF.  There are absolutely no guarantees about the quality and reliability of the information posted on the website, so it is important to be very cautious about selecting someone as a roommate from this site. When you’re trying to decide if someone would be a good roommate for you, think about the following questions:

  • What are you looking for in a roommate?
  • Do you or does your potential roommate smoke?  If yes, will there be a conflict?
  • Do you and your potential roommate have similar sleeping habits?
  • Do you and your potential roommate have similar study habits?
  • Do either of you have any pets?
  • How important is cleanliness to both of you?
  • Consider the amount of personal belongings you both may have. The more there is, the more opportunity there is for clutter.
  • How much time do you both spend on the phone?  Will this be a potential problem?
  • How much time do you both spend in the bathroom/shower?  Will this be a potential problem?

What is a lease?

A lease is a legally binding agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of a landlord and tenants.  A lease details rules by which a landlord and tenants agree to handle matters arising under the rental agreement.  The majority of leases in the University area are for a full calendar year.  In addition, most leases require that each tenant is responsible for the entire amount of the rent. Therefore, if one of your roommates fails to pay the month’s rent, you may be held responsible for paying the entire amount of the rent for that month. Other standard clauses in a lease include:

  • Names and addresses of all parties involved.
  • The amount of rent, when it is due, and whether there are fees for late payment.
  • The beginning and ending dates of the lease, and the amount of the security deposit.
  • Who is responsible for paying utilities such as heat, hot water, electric, gas, phone, and cable.
  • Whether or not pets are allowed.
  • Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance; for example, sometimes luxury items, like dishwashers, are not the responsibility of the landlord to fix.
  • Who is responsible for disposing of trash, cutting the grass, and shoveling the sidewalks.

You should be sure that you keep a copy of your lease for your records. You may need to refer back to the terms of the lease if you have a dispute with your landlord.  If your landlord does not provide you with a copy of your lease, request one before moving in.  


Should I be concerned about signing a lease?
A lease is a legally binding agreement that obligates you financially—it should be entered into with caution.  Before signing a lease, make sure you have read it, you understand it, and you agree to abide by the terms listed in it.  Once you sign a lease it can be difficult and even impossible to get out of it.  Even if your landlord fails to live up to his or her responsibilities under the lease, you may not be released from your obligations. Before you sign a lease, you can have it reviewed for free by Student Legal Services. All matriculated SU and ESF students, except law students and University College students, are eligible to use Student Legal Services.  Attorneys at Student Legal Services offer free advice and consultation on all legal problems and representation for certain legal problems.  Call 315-443-4532 or write to email@studentlegal.net for an appointment, or stop by their office at 760 Ostrom Avenue. 

Can I sublet my apartment during the summer?
Subleasing occurs when a tenant rents the apartment to a third party (subtenant). The subtenant is responsible to the tenant for performing all obligations set forth in the sublease agreement.  The tenant is still responsible to the landlord for performing all obligations set forth in the original lease agreement. This means that finding a subtenant does not release you from your obligations under the original lease. For example, if the subtenant does not pay his or her rent, you remain responsible for the amount due.
Before you negotiate a sublease agreement, you must be sure that you are entitled to do so under your lease.  In addition, you may want to get advice from an attorney to discuss drafting a sublease agreement that will protect your rights.  Attorneys at Student Legal Services offer free advice and consultation.  All matriculated SU and ESF students (except law students and University College students) are eligible to use Student Legal Services. Call 315-443-4532 or write to email@studentlegal.net for an appointment, or stop by their office at 760 Ostrom Avenue. This sample subleaseagreement is a good example.

Is there a service that will assist injured students with getting to and from campus?
Yes.  Syracuse University Health Services operates Medical Transportation Services (MTS), which provides non-emergency ambulatory transport for students with temporary mobility impairment and those with permanent mobility impairment whose routine transport is temporarily interrupted. Service is provided on a temporary basis for medically necessary transportation needs. Transports are limited to four one-way transports per day. MTS answers all medically necessary transportation requests on North Campus, South Campus, ESF Campus and in the near-campus area bordered by Route 81, East Genesee Street, Westcott Street, Meadowbrook Drive, and Ainsley Drive.  MTS is supported by student health fees; there is no out-of-pocket expense during the academic year for students who have paid the fee. There is, however, a charge for non-health fee payers and those requesting service during the summer session. For more information contact Medical Transportation Services at (315) 443-4566 or visit Health Services.

I work or study on campus late at night. Is there any transportation available to get me home after the bus service has ended?
Yes. For additional information about bus service, contact CENTRO at 315-442-3400 or visit their website at CENTRO shedules are also available in the Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Services. The Syracuse University Department of Public Safety operates a Shuttle-U-Home service.  This service provides transportation from the Syracuse University campus to the University Hill homes of SU students, faculty and staff. The shuttle service operates daily from 8:15 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. The shuttle service uses a van capable of transporting up to six passengers. To use the shuttle, riders must go to the lobby of the Department of Public Safety, located in Sims Hall, and sign up. Riders are also required to show their SU I.D. The service departs from Sims Hall and operates within boundaries that are available online here Public Safety

Is it the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant to make repairs in the house or apartment?

In general, tenants are responsible for giving the landlord notice of any needed repairs or maintenance. This is especially important when the problem will cause additional damage unless it is promptly fixed. You should also contact your landlord upon the notice of insects or rodents in your apartment. Landlords are usually responsible for:

1) Keeping common areas, such as hallways and laundry facilities, clean and safe;
2) Maintaining electrical and plumbing systems within the unit;
3) Repairing any peeling lead-based paint; and
4) Maintaining the unit and all supplied equipment, such as refrigerators, stoves, etc.

The most common problem for tenants is working with the landlord to make necessary repairs on the premises. If several people live together, identify a spokesperson for the group. When there are problems, have your spokesperson immediately contact the landlord and follow-up in writing.  Do not be afraid to keep calling if the problem is not resolved. Here is a copy of the sample letter requesting repairs.   If your landlord refuses to make necessary repairs or fails to make repairs in a reasonable amount of time, contact City of Syracuse Code Enforcement at 315-448-8695 or Code Enforcement.


I have contacted my landlord numerous times and the heat has still not been turned on. Is there any existing city law in which landlords are required to turn the heat on in apartments?
If your landlord controls the heat, Syracuse Property Code requires that all occupied buildings be kept at a temperature of at least 68°F between September 15 through May 31 when the outside temperature falls below 55°F.  If you feel your landlord is not complying with this requirement, put your complaint in writing and call the City of Syracuse Code Enforcement Office at 315-448-8695 or Code Enforcement

Is there a way that I can voice concerns about my landlord?
OCCS provides a program, the Landlord Information Sharing Program, where students can file written comments (positive and negative) about their landlords.  The program is designed to allow students to share experiences about their landlord with other students.  The program is not designed to mediate landlord/tenant disputes, although in appropriate circumstances OCCS will make referrals to agencies such as City of Syracuse Code Enforcement or Student Legal Services.  Contact OCCS at 315-443-5489 , or drop by our office at 754 Ostrom Avenue, for more information about the program or to receive instructions about filling out a comment form. 

Is there anything I can do to make sure I get my full security deposit back when I move out?
A security deposit is money that protects landlords against damage beyond normal wear and tear, provides a remedy for unpaid rent, and funds clean-up of the rental, if necessary.  When moving in, the best way to protect your security deposit is to take pictures of EVERYTHING—including the inside of appliances, ceilings, walls, floors, hallways, etc.  If you have a video recorder, it is also a good idea to videotape the condition of the apartment when you move in.  Another suggestion is to complete a detailed list of all damages present in the unit when you move in.  Check out our apartment condition check list. It is important to be very detailed—things such as nail holes in the walls, burns in the carpet, and cracks in the windows could all lead to a deduction from your security deposit if you can’t prove they were there when you moved in.  You can either send this checklist to your landlord after you move in (return receipt so you can prove it was received), or complete the checklist with your landlord present.  Either way, keep a dated copy for your own records.  After you move out, designate a member of your house to keep this information.  Often you won’t be aware that your security deposit has been withheld until after everyone has left town.

How do I activate local telephone service?

To order your telephone service, contact Verizon at 315-890-7100. When you call to order your phone service, the Verizon service representative will ask for the following information:

  • Your complete name and address.
  • The kind of service that you are requesting.
  • The name of the long-distance carrier that you have chosen.
  • How you would like your directory listing to appear.
  • Your previous address and telephone number.
  • Other credit information.

How do I activate the gas and electricity?

To have your electric and/or natural gas service turned on, contact National Grid at 1-800-892-2345, or visit National Grid. When you call to order your electric and/or natural gas service, the National Grid service representative will ask for the following information:

  • Your complete names, address, and telephone number.
  • The kind of service you are requesting.
  • When you would like the service connected.
  • Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card number, or student identification number.
  • If you have had National Grid service in your name, the representative will ask for your previous address.

How can I save money on my winter heating bill?

Here are some suggestions for saving some money on your winter heating bill:

  • Turn down your thermostat.  For every 1° F you set your thermostat back, you can save 1-3% on your annual heating costs.  A change from 72 ° F to 68° F could save you up to 12%!!  Wear several layers of clothing to keep yourself warm. 
  • Turn down the thermostat every time you leave the house for two or more hours AND at night—it takes less energy to warm up a cool house than it does to maintain a warm temperature all day and night. 
  • Install an electronic thermostat to turn the heat up and down at pre-set times. 
  • Take advantage of the sun—open curtains during the day to capture warmth and close them at night to prevent heat loss through windows. 
  • If you use a space heater for extra warmth, be sure to keep it AT LEAST three feet from other objects. 

Just remember to keep your thermostat set to a temperature higher than 55° F.  Do not turn off your heat when you are away on break to save money!  You must keep your apartment heated ALL WINTER LONG so that your pipes will not freeze—even while NOBODY is living in the house.  Frozen pipes cause extensive and expensive damage to a home’s plumbing and heating systems.  If you turn off your heat over winter or spring break, YOU could be responsible for these repairs! 


How do I activate cable television?

To obtain cable service, contact Time Warner Cable at 315-634-6000. When you call to order cable service, the Time Warner Cable representative will ask for the following information:

  • Your complete names, address, and telephone number.
  • The kind of service you are requesting.
  • If you have had Time Warner Cable service in your name, the representative will ask for your previous address.

Should I get renters’ insurance?
Renters’ insurance covers your personal belongings (e.g., stereo, TVs, computers, etc.) if they are stolen or damaged, and may provide liability protection as well. Landlords and property owners are generally not responsible for your personal property. Renters’ insurance is pretty affordable, ranging from $65 to $225 a year depending on your level of coverage. To determine how much coverage you need, check with your parents or a licensed agent. Sometimes you may be covered by your parent’s homeowners insurance.  Syracuse University offers a “personal property” only insurance plan for enrolled students. For more information visit www.haylor.com/college or contact Haylor, Freyer & Coon at 1-866-535-0456.

What kind of security exists for off-campus student residents?
Security off-campus is the responsibility of the Syracuse Police Department.  The Neighborhood Safety Patrol provides increased police service to the neighborhood adjacent to campus.  The Neighborhood Safety Patrol is a partnership among residents of the University neighborhood, the Syracuse Property Owners Association, the Syracuse Police Department, and Syracuse University.  The patrol is part of an effort to deter criminal activity, promote resident safety, and improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.  During the academic year, the patrol operates for four hours on Sunday through Thursday nights, and for six hours on Friday and Saturday nights. For more information, contact the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety, 005 Sims Hall, 315-443-2224, or the Syracuse Police Department, 511 South State Street, Syracuse, NY  13202, 315-442-5111 (non emergency). In an emergency, students should call 911 off campus.

Should I be concerned about safety off-campus?

You should always be conscious of your personal safety and the safety of your property.  Criminals are opportunistic and always look for easy targets such as homes that are left open, not well maintained, out of eyesight or earshot of neighbors, or obscured by landscaping or fencing.  The best way to minimize your chances of becoming a victim is to take sensible precautions.
The following tips are offered by the City of Syracuse Police Department and are designed to help you reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime. You may already be aware of some of these strategies, but others may be new to you.  Remember to trust your instincts and use common sense. 


Before Renting an Apartment

  • Survey the residence for the following security features:
  • Does the apartment have metal or solid core wooden entry and exit doors?  Are these doors equipped with deadbolts?  Are the locks mounted securely?  Have the doors been re-keyed since the last tenant moved out?
  • Can visitors be observed without opening the apartment door either through a door “peephole” viewer or window?
  • Does any outside vegetation block doors or windows from public view?  Does the vegetation provide places or concealment at entrances at or along walkways?
  • Is there adequate lighting at the building entry doors and along walkways?  Are the outer doors kept locked at all times?
In Your Apartment
  • Keep your doors locked at all times, especially when you are alone, sleeping, or the apartment is unoccupied (even if only for a few moments).
  • Determine who is on the other side of the door before opening it.  Have repair or service personnel show official identification and confirm their presence with the person requesting the service.  Delivery persons should remain outside to await the person requesting the delivery.
  • If you return home and something looks questionable (e.g., a slit screen, broken window, or open door) do not go inside.  Call the Syracuse Police Department from a safe location.
  • Be sure you have blinds or curtains on your windows to discourage window peepers.  Always keep your windows covered at night and leave lights on in two or more rooms.
  • Make a list of your valuables and record any serial numbers.
  • Be sure all outdoor lighting fixtures are in working condition.  Ask your landlord to make immediate repairs if they are not working.
  • Place items of value out of sight and in locked areas.  Do not leave valuables unattended in such common areas as laundry rooms and lounges.
  • Ask your landlord to maintain and trim shrubbery.
Before Leaving for Long Breaks
  • Be sure there is good lighting around all doors, especially those doors not visible from the street.
  • Lock sliding doors, and place a wooden or metal bar in the track of the doors.
  • Do not hide spare keys in places outside.
  • Buy a timer that automatically turns on exterior lights at a predetermined time or when there is motion.
  • Arrange for a neighbor whom you trust to watch over your house or to store your valuables while you are away.
  • Take anything of value home with you. Do not leave any valuable items near windows. Take pictures of anything valuable in case it is stolen.
  • Make sure all windows are secure and have curtains on them.
  • Ask the post office to hold any mail for you until you return from break.

Can you tell me if a particular location is safe to live in?
OCCS cannot make a judgment about the safety of a particular area off-campus—you must use information that is available to you to make your own decision about the safety of an apartment or location.  You can contact the Syracuse Police Department at 315-442-5111 for crime statistics, or view crime statistics at the Syracuse Police Department website at syracusepolice.org, click on “Crime Maps.”

How can I report a noise complaint?
The City of Syracuse noise ordinance prohibits excessive or unnecessary noise that can be heard across property lines. This includes playing a radio, stereo, television, musical instrument, or any other device in such a manner that its sound crosses property lines. Contact Syracuse Police Department at 315-442-5111 to file a complaint. Members of the Syracuse community, specifically residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to Syracuse University, now have a dedicated hotline to report non-emergency issues, complaints, and concerns, or ask questions related to off-campus student life.  By dialing 315-442-CARE, callers may share details and contact information on the voice system and the Office of Government and Community Relations and the Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Services (OCCS) will work together to resolve issues of concern.

How can I get involved in the community?
Students should work to integrate themselves fully into their off-campus community. Many opportunities for community involvement exist. There are several neighborhood associations in areas adjacent to the University. Students are encouraged to attend neighborhood association meetings to learn more about the areas resources and activities. For further information about these associations, contact the Office of Government and Community Relations at 315-443-3919.