Looking for Housing

Before you start looking, make decisions about the cost, location, size, and quality of housing that you desire. If you plan to have roommates, make sure everyone agrees on these decisions. There are a variety of ways to find a house, apartment, or room:

  • Use online resources or conduct your own Internet search using an engine such as Google.
  • Check the local classified ads sections of daily and weekly newspapers.
  • Pay attention to what's happening with your friends. Often students who are graduating, moving, or studying abroad will advertise to those they know.

In general, don't take the first place you investigate. Always talk in person with the landlord and anyone else who may give you information about the property (current tenants and neighbors, for example).


Tenant screening is a common process that landlords use to obtain background information on prospective tenants. This can include credit, criminal, and rental history checks. If the landlord uses a screening service, he or she may charge the tenant the cost of the service (the average cost is around $35). Washington state law forbids a landlord from making a profit on the tenant screening process. In order for a landlord to conduct screening lawfully, they must notify the tenant of what the screening entails, notify the tenant of his or her right to dispute the accuracy of the information obtained, and provide the tenant with the name and address of the screening service used.

The Walk-Through

Top 11 Warning Signs
An E-presentation on things to consider before renting

You should never rent premises that you haven't seen. Set up a walk-through so you can see the property and ask questions in person. The following are some questions to ask and things to consider:

Ask the landlord:

  • What utilities does the property use? What is the approximate monthly utility cost?
  • Who will have access to keys to the rental unit and how are keys protected? Will locks be changed when the current tenants move out?
  • How is maintenance or repair work handled? Does the landlord live on-site or nearby? Is there a property manager?
  • What kinds of problems have occurred in the neighborhood or building?

Assess the property for safety:

  • Outside 
    Are shrubs and trees cut so there is a clear view of the building? Is the area well lit? Is the yard clean and well kept?
  • In an apartment building 
    Is there some kind of control over who enters the building? Are entrances, hallways, elevators, and other public areas well lit 24 hours a day? Are fire stairs locked from the outside on the ground floor? Are mailboxes in a well traveled, well lit area and do they have locks?
  • Inside 
    Is there more than one exit in case of fire (by law each bedroom must have a window that opens to the outside for a fire escape). Does the residence have smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers? Do doors have deadbolt locks? Are hinges secure and installed with non-removable pins? Do doors have peepholes? Are windows lockable?