Checklist for Off-Campus Housing Search

Listed below is our best recommendations for beginning your off-campus housing search:

  1. Take the online Renters Workshop. Community Rental’s online workshop guides you through the steps to find off-campus housing and teaches you about your rights and responsibilities and how to avoid problematic situations. Complete it and receive a certificate to add to your rental application packet as a reference.
  2. Decide what you are looking for. How many roommates or housemates will you live with? What is your budget? How far are you willing to travel? Brainstorm these kinds of things early to narrow your search down.
  3. Research costs. Check current rental listings, cost ranges, and averages to find out how much rentals cost. Budget additionally for utilities, household supplies, and transportation costs in time and money.
  4. Utilize available resources. Our website has downloadable forms such as a rental application or housemate agreement, plus sample letters such as a tenant resume or a request for repairs. Our Rental Laws page has links to applicable rental law information.
  5. Submit a Reference Release Form. This online form is available at It enables the university to provide a reference to landlords regarding rent payment and on-campus tenant conduct histories.
  6. Create a rental application packet. A rental packet is a great tool to promote yourself and become a better prospect to landlords. It includes a cover letter, resume, rental application, and references. If you are applying as a group, include each person in the packet. Instructions for creating a packet can be found in the workshop, and a sample rental application packet is available here (PDF) and in our office.
  7. Search rentals. Search our rental listings. Our list of property management companies and apartment complexes has additional rental options.
  8. Check the Neighborhood. Drive or walk through the neighborhood at different times of day and night, especially the times when you are likely to be coming and going. Is the street well lit? Does the neighborhood feel safe to you? Will you be comfortable walking home from the bus after a night class? Check the Santa Cruz Police Department crime maps for information if in the city of Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz County Sheriff crime maps outside of the city. 
  9. Check the City of Santa Cruz's 'Loud and Unruly Address' list before considering a property.
  10. Make the call. Call the landlord or property manager of the rentals you are interested in. Set up a time to view the property. We have compiled some suggestions for making a good impression here.
  11. View the property. Be sure to ask questions and give the place a good look.
  12. Submit your application packet. Have a copy with you. Let the manager know your confidential information is available for the credit check as soon as you are being considered seriously as a tenant. Bring it with you in case you need it but don’t hand it out indiscriminately.
  13. Sign rental agreement and pay your deposit. Get a copy of all paperwork you sign and a receipt for all financial transactions. Keep a rental file.