Off-Campus Student Services

Apartment Vocabulary

Here are some common terms renters will encounter when leasing an apartment.

Amenities. Items of convenience or enjoyment that are provided by the apartment, typically at no additional cost. Examples of apartment amenities are: air conditioning, heat and hot water, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, Internet, cable, etc.

Furnished Apartments contain some items of furniture rather than requiring you to supply all furniture. A typical furnished apartment bedroom will have a bed, nightstand, desk, chair, dresser of some sort, and a lamp. A furnished apartment common area will generally have a sofa, coffee and/or end tables, and dining room table and chairs. Keep in mind that most apartments with kitchens typically include a refrigerator, stove top, oven and microwave, regardless of whether they are furnished or unfurnished (nonetheless, it's always a good idea to ask). Every apartment is a little different in what it does and does not provide, so check with the apartment’s landlord and carefully read your lease before signing.

Things that are not typically included in a furnished apartment are: dishes, cups, silverware, pots, pans, linens, towels, pillow, blankets, phone, vacuum, iron. or ironing board. You will need to supply these items.

  • Note: a furnished apartment is not the same as an extended stay hotel. An extended stay hotel is often furnished similar to a furnished apartment, but the lease/rent terms are typically very different. An extended stay hotel is intended for stays of one week to one month, and the rates are usually significantly higher than an apartment, which is typically intended to be rented for a one-year minimum.

Guarantor (also called a co-signer). A person that agrees (in writing) to pay your lease and associated expenses if you default (are unable to pay) on your lease. The guarantor will be responsible for the full amount remaining to be paid on the contract if you default. A guarantor may be required when applying for a lease if you are not able to demonstrate a history of good credit or an income capable of paying the rent. Keep in mind that your guarantor will need to demonstrate the good credit history and income that you might be unable to demonstrate.

Lease. Your lease is a contract between you and the apartment owner. This contract will spell out the legal requirements and limitations for both you (the renter) and the apartment owner. This document will also define what you are able to do (and not do) to continue living in the apartment. It will cover the process for you to leave and how the owner can make you leave (evict you) if necessary. Carefully read and fully understand your lease before signing. Trying to negotiate with the apartment owner after you have signed your lease (thereby agreeing to the terms) puts you in a difficult position. If you are unable to understand the language, we recommend hiring a lawyer trained in this area to assist you.

Security Deposit. This is an amount of money required to be paid when signing the lease on your new apartment. The deposit is to protect the apartment owner from the possibility of future damages or default on the lease. Your deposit is returned to you in some fashion; it may be applied to future charges or returned when you vacate the apartment.

Short-Term Lease. A rental agreement less than one year. Apartments typically rent for one year; anything less is referred to as a short-term lease. Because of the added expense to find and prepare the unit for another renter, short-term lease rates are typically more expensive than one-year rates.

Apartment Sublets. This is an apartment in which the original renter has left before the lease ended and that original renter is renting the apartment to someone else for the remainder of the lease. In this situation, you are renting from the previous renter, not the apartment owner, so be very careful.

Utility. This term applies resources provided by a regulated industry to consumers for a fee. Common apartment utilities include: electric, phone, cable TV, Internet service, water, natural gas, sewage, and trash disposal. Some apartments will include certain utilities in the rent, while others will require you to set up service with the utility company yourself.

Some common abbreviations international students may encounter when searching for apartments:

  • A/C – Air Conditioning
  • Apt. – Apartment
  • BR – Bedroom; you will usually see this preceded by the number of bedrooms (i.e., 3BR is an apartment with 3 bedrooms).
  • BA – Bathroom; you will usually see this preceded by the number of bathrooms, where a “half” bathroom (0.5) is just a sink and toilet with no shower or bathtub. For example,  2.5BA is an apartment with 2 full bathrooms (toilet, sink, and shower or bathtub) and 1 half-bathroom (sink and toilet).
  • HT/HW – Heat and hot water
  • W/D – Clothes washer and dryer

Searching for off-campus housing can be a daunting task. The staff members in Off-Campus Student Services (OCSS) are here to help you find roommates and locate apartments in and around Boston. We are also available to assist with any issues you might have after you find an apartment, concerning landlords or roommates.

Moving to a new place can be especially challenging if you are relocating from out of town, from across the country or from overseas. We value your hard work and dedication in choosing to study with us and will assist you in this process as best we can. While Emerson College does not endorse any realtors, roommate services, or other companies, we can act as a starting point in your search. Good luck!