Visiting Scholar/Employee Housing
Finding housing can be one of the most challenging parts of getting settled in Alaska. It can be difficult to secure housing; therefore you should make plans for temporary housing in advance of your arrival in Alaska. Although our office is unable to make housing arrangements for scholars, the following resources can assist you with finding suitable accommodations.
It is customary to pay at least one month’s rent and a deposit –usually an additional month’s rent –to the landlord at the time you agree to rent the apartment. It will be important that you have those funds immediately available in cash or payable by check to secure your housing. When renting a room or an apartment, you should always request a lease with all relevant charges noted, such as rent, security deposit, etc. from the landlord. Without a lease, you have no binding agreement and your landlord may charge you more than you had verbally agreed upon.
If you wish to purchase a house in Fairbanks, you will need to have credit established in the U.S. if you plan to finance the home purchase (have a mortgage/long-term loan). Additionally, your immigration status could make this very difficult.
Type of Housing
Cabins: Cabins are a well-known symbol for the warmth and beauty of our Interior Alaska home. There are a multitude of options for a cabin stay in our area. Cabins may be “dry” or “wet.” Dry means that there is no running water from a faucet in the cabin. You will need to make arrangements to bring your own water or have it delivered.
Sleeping Room: one room with shared bathroom and, possibly, shared kitchen facilities. Some accommodations include shared or private bedrooms in an apartment or house, in which case renters also share a living and dining room and perhaps laundry facilities.
Studio Apartment: a one room apartment with an area for cooking and a private bathroom.
One, two, or three bedroom apartment or house: a kitchen, bathroom, living/dining room, and number of bedrooms as listed, sometimes including laundry. Many large apartment complexes have laundry facilities, pools, Jacuzzi, etc. that are used by all tenants.
Leases: A lease is a written agreement or contract between a landlord (house or apartment property owner) and tenant (renter) which allows the tenant to use the property for a specified period of time in exchange for a set fee (rent). The lease outlines the restrictions and responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord. Once the lease is signed, it serves as a legal document and can be used in a court of law if a dispute arises. Items included in leases are as follows:
- The amount of monthly rent, date of month when it must be paid and whether utilities (heat and electricity) are included.
- The time period for which the lease is valid (varies from a few months to a year).
- Restrictions are placed on the number of persons who may reside in the dwelling and whether the apartment can be shared by non-family members. The persons named in the lease and who sign it are permitted to live in the apartment. If any members of your family are due to arrive at a later date, be sure to mention this before you sign the lease to prevent any future problems. Overcrowding is prohibited for health and safety reasons.
- A security deposit and a cleaning fee are usually requested in addition to the first month’s rent when you sign. The security deposit is refunded at the end of the lease if the apartment is left clean and in good condition. Otherwise, the landlord may use the money to make the necessary repairs. Some landlords may require the last month’s rent to be included in the initial payment to protect the lease.
- Restrictions regarding pets, noise and children should be specified in the lease. Some landlords do not permit pets, children, or noise from sources such as loud parties or music or practicing musical instruments.
- Landlord/tenant responsibilities/leases state that the landlord will repair heating, plumbing, fire, or water damage caused by equipment failure and not by the tenant. Tenants must pay for the damage they themselves cause.
- A clause about subletting specify whether or not you may sublet the property to another party during the period of time covered by the lease. (Subletting is renting to someone else in your temporary absence).
- A clause about terminating the lease indicates penalties to be paid by the tenant if the lease is broken. It is important to find out, should you need to return to your country unexpectedly, whether your lease permits you to do so. Subletting is a possible solution.
- A clause about eviction proceedings outlines the rights of the landlord and the tenant if the landlord wants to force the tenant to vacate the property while the lease is still in effect.
- Before you sign a renter’s agreement or contract, we recommend that you read it carefully. Be certain that your questions are answered to your satisfaction.
- Upon moving in, it is a good idea to write down (and even take pictures of) all the defects in the apartment and have the landlord sign the paper so that you will not be charged for those defects when you move out.
- We also recommend that you obtain a copy of The Alaska Landlord & Tenant Act and become familiar with your rights as a renter.
You may want to consider insuring your valuable possessions against fire or theft as your landlord is not responsible for such a loss. Insurance companies offer policies to cover these kinds of losses and/or damage to the apartment. Insurance companies are listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory under ‘Insurance Brokers.'
When Renting, First Consider:
While apartments located in unsafe neighborhoods may be relatively inexpensive, the safety of the neighborhood should be your primary concern when looking for an apartment.
Transportation and Proximity to Campus:
If you do not plan to purchase a car, it is very important that the apartment have public transportation nearby.
Utilities, such as gas, electricity, and water and trash may be included in the price of the apartment. If the utilities are not included in the rent it is a good idea to ask the landlord how much the utilities usually cost per month. It is typical that water and trash will be included in your rent but usually gas, electricity, television and internet typically will not be included.
Terms of the Lease:
A lease is a contract granting use or occupation of a property. Be sure to read everything before you sign a lease! Typically leases are 12 months in length but this is sometimes negotiable with the landlord. When you sign a lease, you are agreeing that you are responsible for the rent payments for the ENTIRE lease term.
Most landlords will require a security deposit which usually runs the same as one month rent, although they do vary. If your rent is $900/month then it is likely your deposit will be an additional $900 in addition to your first month’s rent. Some landlords will allow you to break your deposit into payments (over 2 to 3 months) but you have to request it
Due to the high cost of living in Fairbanks it is very common that students share rooms or at least have another roommate to share the cost of the apartment and utilities. Be selective when choosing your roommates since you will be living with them for a while – make sure you learn as much as you can about their lifestyle and habits (waking time, sleeping time, alcohol, smoking, cleanliness, party/study habits, etc.) and your adjustment to living with roommates will be a lot easier.
While using Craigslist is typically the way that Americans find apartments or roommates, please be cautious when using this website. The website is unregulated and there can be a lot of scams on it, but the majority of the postings are legitimate and honest. Use your best judgment when responding to posting and ALWAYS go with a friend to meet with a potential roommate or to see an apartment.
Visiting the Property:
- Make an Appointment and Arrive on Time
Landlords usually do not appreciate perspective tenants arriving unannounced, and you want to be assured that you will be able to see the property when you get there. Also, verify the information with the landlord over the phone first.
- Be Presentable
Landlords want to rent to individuals who look as if they would make good tenants. Proper attire may improve your chances when there are several applicants. Treat your viewing like a job interview.
- Be Persistent
A prospective landlord may take your name and say he/she will get back to you after reviewing all applications. Check back and remind the landlord that you are still interested.
- Carry Your Checkbook
If you find a place you like, be prepared to pay a deposit to hold it. Landlords often ask for a deposit. Make sure you get a receipt for the deposit. The receipt should specify whether the deposit is refundable if you do not rent the place and how the deposit will be used if you do rent the place, e.g., as part of the security deposit or the first month's rent. Also carry with you a list of personal references and their contact information with you.
Start looking early, and give yourself at least a few weeks to find housing. The time in which students start looking for housing changes every year, depending on the market and the availability of housing for the next year. If you want a house for the following school year, it is advisable to start looking for available houses in the fall-winter of the year before. Landlords who usually rent to students may be willing to have you sign a lease in advance.
Concerns or Complaints
Discuss questions or concerns about an apartment's condition with the landlord before signing a lease. If repairs are needed, write the agreement into lease, for example, "Landlord will fix leaky sink before move-in date." Sign and date.