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Student Rental Guide

Before Signing Your Lease Financial Considerations
Roommates Lease Info
Occupant Limits Pet Policies
Renter's Insurance Utilities
Safety and Security Alcohol and Parties
Ice and Snow Removal Lawn Care

For more helpful renting information visit:


Before signing your lease:

1) LOOK AT THE HOUSE/APARTMENT first–there are too many people that sign a lease on a roommate’s or friend’s recommendation–bad idea! For lots of reasons! Decide if you want to live in a house, apartment or co-op.

2) Consider the costs of living off-campus. How much is rent per person and what forms of payment are accepted (cash, check or credit)? Beyond rent, what can you expect utilities to cost?

3) Choose your roommates wisely. Not only do you want them to be your friends, but also responsible roommates. Talking about the expectations for your off-campus place together is always a good start!

4) How close is the apartment to campus? If it isn’t close, how will you commute to campus?

5) How did the previous tenants enjoy living in the house? Ask them questions like, did the landlord respond to maintenance issues on a timely basis, or how many noise tickets are already on the premises.**

**There are different rules about noise tickets depending on the type of house you live in. If it is a regular house or apartment, the property can’t get more than 3 during the August-August period, if it is a fraternity, co-op, or other large housing situation, they can’t get more than three in a calendar year. Something to think about!


Financial Considerations

Most students haven’t taken total control of their expenses until they move off campus. Just think about all the things that start adding up that you may not have thought about: rent, internet, cable, utilities, groceries, tuition, car payments/insurance, entertainment expenses, clothes…..the list goes on!! It’s a learning process, and there are lots of resources designed to make that transition easier.

MSU’s Financial Aid website has tools designed to help you apply for financial aid, create a budget, apply for scholarships, and lots more. It’s well worth it to spend some time there.

Whatever you do, don’t get into huge credit card debt. It will make your life an interest-induced nightmare!



No matter how well you think you know your friends, living with someone is a completely different story. Before you sign a lease with someone, ask these questions and remember, it will feel like a much bigger deal when you are in the same house or apartment.

1) How clean are you? Would you keep up your end of the deal if we set a cleaning schedule for shared spaces?

2) Do you smoke?

3) How do you feel about overnight guests?

4) Do you have any pets?

5) What kind of hours do you keep?

If you have a problem with your roommate that feels irresolvable, consider mediation. It is a lower cost and less adversarial option than taking them to court.


Lease Info

Before you sign a lease, look over it carefully, and seriously consider having a lawyer look over it with you. There are a couple low or no-cost options for students who would like a lawyer to look at their lease before signing:

ASMSU Legal Services

Rental Housing Clinic

Both are within walking distance of each other–ASMSU is located in the Student Services Building, and the Rental Housing Clinic is located across Grand River next to Chipotle. If you choose not to use either, AT LEAST READ THROUGH THE ENTIRE LEASE YOURSELF!

Some things that definitely should be included in your lease are:

  • Name and signature of the landlord

  • Name and signature of the tenant

  • Rent amount to be paid, how frequently, and when and where it is to be paid

  • Address of the rental property

  • Starting and ending dates if it is a fixed term tenancy

  • Landlord’s mailing address

  • Amount of the security deposit, if any

  • Name and address of the financial institution holding the security deposit

  • Notice of the tenant’s obligation to provide a forwarding address to the landlord within 4 days of terminating the tenancy

  • Who is responsible for paying utilities

  • Repair and maintenance responsibilities

  • Eviction procedures

  • Any other terms and conditions that the landlord and tenant agreed to; AND

  • This statement must be provided in a prominent place in the lease, in at least a 12 pt. font size


Occupancy Limits

The Rental Housing Clinic defines over-occupancy as “too many occupants as determined by the City of East Lansing’s zoning code for rental licensing purposes.”

Basically, your house is licensed for a certain number of people, and if you choose to have someone live there but not be on the lease in order to drop the rent, that constitutes over-occupancy. East Lansing takes this very seriously, and if it is the tenants who instigated the over-occupancy, not the landlord, fines range from $250-1000 PER DAY! EACH ROOMMATE could be fined up to $30,000. That’s serious money!

If you have more questions about over-occupancy, check out the Rental Housing Clinic’s over-occupancy pamphlet that gives all the gory details. They have tons of pamphlets on every topic imaginable, but this one is under “East Lansing Housing Law.”


Pet Policies

Most landlords in East Lansing do not allow pets within their rentals, and if they do, usually an extra damage deposit is required for the animal. Think carefully about whether or not it is worth it to:

A) get evicted from your apartment if your landlord finds out you’ve got an illegal pet in there or
B) pay a lot of extra money you potentially may not get back, because in all honesty, an animal can wreak havoc on a property if they’re not well behaved.

If you do think carefully through both of these things and decide to get a pet, check out the MSU Veterinary College’s website, which has lots of activities and free services for you and your pet.


Renter's Insurance

Why bother with Renter’s Insurance? One word: PROTECTION–of your home, your car–your property.

Home: In most cases, your landlord won’t cover your stuff if it’s stolen, or if there’s a fire or a flood. Renter’s Insurance will.

Car: Auto insurance doesn’t cover anything inside your car–MP3 player, clothes, other personal property. Renter’s Insurance will.

“My stuff doesn’t add up to much. I’m just a poor college student.”

Nope! Most estimates show that the average person owns $20,000 in personal property. Do you have that kind of money on hand to replace your stuff?

Some Renter’s Insurance is as low as $5/month. Ask around at different companies and protect your personal belongings!



Most of the time, when you live in an apartment you pay your landlord to take care of things like utilities, and when you live in a house you are responsible for setting up utilities and payments yourself. Make your utility arrangements in advance so you’ll be all set when you move-in.

Visit the Moving In Section of the City of East Lansing’s website for a list of utility providers in the local area. The utilities covered include:

  • Gas

  • Electric

  • Water/Sewer

  • Telephone

  • Cable TV

  • Satellite TV

  • Refuse, Yard Waste and Recycling Collections

  • Internet

As you make utility decisions:

  • Consult your roommates about factors such as payment responsibilities and schedules

  • Ask the utility companies if they offer start up deals for new customers or new accounts

  • Remember, it is common for a deposit to be required when requesting a new service


Ice and Snow Removal

When inclement weather hits, safety is the priority in the neighborhoods!

When snow or ice fall, it is the responsibility of either you or your property manager to remove it. Check your lease- it may spell out who’s responsibility it is.� Or be sure to shovel to avoid paying a fine!

Check the Ice and Snow Removal Guidelines available on the Parking and Code Enforcement (PACE) website.


Lawn Care

Lawn care is one of the key responsibilities that comes with living in a house off-campus.� Whether you’re a student renter or a non-student resident, the expectations for lawn care are the same because East Lansing prides itself on being a nice and clean community.

Parking and Code Enforcement (PACE) is responsible for the enforcement of lawn care requirements. They offer guidelines for the following areas online:

  • Grass and Landscaping

  • Outdoor furniture

  • Litter


Safety & Security

Most people generally think of East Lansing as a safe place to live, and it is. However, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

Because there is a large rental/student population in East Lansing, there is a high theft rate during specific times of the year, specifically Fall Welcome, Christmas Break, and Spring Break. Far too many students leave a window or door unlocked and valuables all over the house. Don’t become another victim! If you are concerned about the safety of your house and it is a non-emergency, please call the East Lansing Police non-emergency line at (517) 351-4220. The officers are very willing to help with any concerns you might have.

10 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Being a Victim of Theft! Get this helpful resource from the East Lansing Police Department- download it here!

Also, think about your health and safety in other ways. Here are a few resources to help if you have questions or concerns about any of these areas. People who work in these offices are concerned about the mental and physical health of students, and are willing to help in any way they can.

Sexual Assault Program
Olin Health
MSU Counseling Center

Please refer to the following guidelines, tips, suggestions and resources regarding parties and alcohol consumption in East Lansing.


Guidelines for Hosting a Party in East Lansing

1) Visit surrounding neighbors, be friendly, and inform them of plans for a party. Please keep in mind that you have neighbors and you do not want to disturb the quality of neighborhood life. Party hosts should make every effort to keep the entire party on their own premises. This includes noise, litter, parking etc.

2) Invite only people you know to your party. The better you know people, the more likely they are to respond to your expectations and requests.

3) Do not advertise alcohol related parties to the general public. Large parties usually get out of control and the hosts have a very difficult time maintaining order.

4) Always provide non alcoholic beverages and food as an alternative to alcohol.

5) Do not allow underage drinking. Providing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor offense and carries a maximum fine of $1,000 + court costs and up to 60 days in jail and/or community service. Additionally, the host can be charged for having an unlawful party.

6) Keep your party under control. If you go outside, remember noise carries more than you think, especially at night. The City's noise ordinance states that you cannot have any noise that leaves your property. If there is any noise that is plainly audible from the street or adjacent property then you are subject to a noise violation citation. The police are under no obligation to give you a warning. The fine can range from $250 to $1,000 + court costs for the first offense. Additionally, your landlord will be notified every time there is any type of violation on your property.

7) Make sure you clean up any litter that is generated from your party immediately. PACE Officers and police officers have the authority to issue party litter warnings and citations if a property is not cleaned up. Residents have two hours from the time they are notified of the violation to clean up the mess. The fine for party litter starts at $185.

8) Do not allow anyone to drive home if they have had too much to drink. A host can be held civilly and criminally liable for the intoxicated person's actions. Know when to stop serving alcohol.

9) Do not posses or provide false identification to a police officer or liquor establishment. Doing so constitutes disorderly conduct and subjects the offender to arrest and a maximum fine of $500 + court costs.

10) It also helps to register your party at the East Lansing Police Desk. Officers will know who to contact if there is a complaint. If the police do come to your party, make every effort to cooperate. Immediately make contact with them and provide them with your identification. Ask your guests to quiet down and turn off any amplified music. Register Your Party

11) Do not sell alcohol. It is illegal to have an unlicensed cash bar. It is also illegal to sell cups, have a cover charge, or charge for a band or other entertainment and "give away" the alcohol. Doing so constitutes a "blind pig" party for which you may be charged with a felony.

12) Don't have a party every weekend. Your neighbors will become less and less tolerant of the activities surrounding the party.

13) Do not carry open containers of alcoholic beverages in public. This is illegal in East Lansing, even if you are 21.

14) Have sober people at the party that are monitoring activity and can provide rides to those that have had too much to drink.

Block Parties

Block parties are generally prohibited by the City of East Lansing because of their potential to get out of control, resulting in personal injury and property damage. Since an ordinance was adopted to prohibit carrying alcohol in open containers in public, it is not legal to have open alcohol on the streets, on public sidewalks, parking lots, or any place open to the general public.

Small, neighborhood block parties may be approved if alcohol is not being consumed on the streets or sidewalks. Requests for this type of block party must be approved by the City Council through the City Manager's Office. (517) 319-6863.

Rental Owner Notification

Property owners or their legal agents will be notified by the Code Enforcement and Neighborhood Conservation of violations resulting in the issuance of police citations for nuisance parties. Owners and agents of rental properties will be expected to increase their superintending control or be subject to rental licensing sanctions.


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