Living Off Campus

SAIC has great residence halls located within walking distance of all of our academic buildings, but if you are more comfortable living off campus, below find information to make your search, move, and living situation as easy as possible. 

To assist with your search we partnered with Places4Students. The website gives you access to apartment listings that show photos, floor plans, and features. You can also use it to find a roommate. Moving off campus is a big step into adulthood. Residence Life is dedicated to facilitating the growth of the SAIC community and helping you with this transition. If you have any questions, please contact our offices by email, phone, or fax.

Be a Good Neighbor

Living off campus differs in many ways from living at home or on campus. You will have a whole new measure of freedom. You will not have to live by your parents' curfew or residence hall quiet hours. But there are some do's and don'ts. Your landlord will impose a few rules on you, the law will give you some limitations, and let us not forget the people who are in some ways more important than either your landlord or the law—your neighbors.

The people living near your space will have a few things that they may want you to do, or may want you not to do. It is important to have an open line of communication with your neighbors as some of their preferences may not be written in a book or a pamphlet and can only be related by talking with them.

These preferences may be as small as how hard you close your door or as simple as not skateboarding in your living room. It is still your space (you're paying for it after all) but it is best to keep in mind that there will be people living next door, above, and/or below your apartment. On the other hand, you may not like their loud country music or their tiny barking dog. Most conflicts between student tenants and their neighbors center around excessive noise, rowdy gatherings, and large amounts of misplaced trash. Here is some important information on how to avoid confrontations with your neighbors.

  • It's rude, it's disturbing, and it's against the law! Loud music, noisy parties, and gatherings in excess of the building capacity are also violations of the Chicago City Code and of your lease agreement. All residential leases, whether explicitly stated or implied, contain a basic right: the right to "Quiet Enjoyment." While this ensures your right to quietly enjoy full possession and use of the premises, it also imposes on you the responsibility and obligation not to disturb your neighbors, whether they are the people next door or the people across the street. Some landlords attach to the lease a list of rules and regulations regarding noise, quiet hours, and prohibited behavior and clearly indicate that a breach of these rules is a breach of the lease. If you are in violation of your lease, the landlord will notify you of the violation. If after the notification the violation is repeated, the landlord can start eviction procedures against you. Respect your neighbor and your neighbor will respect you. For more information on noise policies in Chicago take a look at these resources:


  • Disposing of waste properly is necessary not only for your home, but for your neighborhood and the environment. Excessive trash invites pests like rats into your apartment even if it's left outside. Plus no one wants to trip over garbage after or before a long day of work or school. Neighborhood trash and recycling policies vary, so be sure to check on your neighborhood's status at the Department of Sanitation and Waste Reduction.

    In addition to helping you to get along in your new building or neighborhood, your neighbors can be your friends. If you need someone to watch your place while you are away, water your plants, or lend you a hammer, they can be there for you. They can also direct you to fun places in the neighborhood and great places for a delicious, inexpensive meal. So get to know your neighbors. It makes life more fun and safer. Respect their right to peace and quiet and keep your property clean and trash-free.

Know the Lingo

  • Amenities—These include features of a building. Common examples include a fitness center, business center, balconies, laundry room, swimming pool, childcare center, playground, and community room.

    Cooperative (also referred to co-op housing)—A building owned by a cooperative apartment corporation. The corporation issues shares of its stock which are allocated to each apartment depending on the size and features. This means you don't own the actual space but rather a share in the corporation.

    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.

    Credit—A dollar amount borrowed by you from a lender (a store, credit card company, landlord, etc) and paid back at a set rate of pay at a set time (i.e., monthly, bi-monthly) until the debt is repaid in full.

    Credit Check—A credit check entails seeking a detailed analysis from a credit reporting bureau or agency. The report usually contains things like date of birth, social security number, current, and in some cases previous address, employment history, current employer and income, and payment history for loans and other debts.

    Credit Report—Statement created by financial companies that document whether you paid your bills on time. This report is important because it is what your landlord will look at to determine whether you're trustworthy enough to rent to.

    Deposit—Also known as a security deposit, is a fixed sum of money given to the landlord by the prospect at the start of tenancy to cover reasonable losses that may occur during the time that the tenant is occupying said space. If the space is left in the same condition as it was entered into, the landlord is obligated to return the full amount of the security deposit. If the tenant has afflicted damages beyond what is deemed reasonable or breaks the lease agreement that he or she signed with the landlord then the landlord keeps the deposit amount.

    Eat-in kitchen—A kitchen large enough to contain seating for meals.

    Eviction—The formal removal of a resident when they have broken the terms of their apartment rental agreement. In most cases, this requires formal notice beforehand.

    Full Bath—A bathroom that includes a toilet and sink plus a shower and/or bath. The presence of the shower and/or bath makes this bathroom distinct from a half bathroom.

    Furnished Apartment—means that you'll have the basics covered. You'll have your sofa, your kitchen table and chairs, your bed, a dresser and probably your basic household items. These units are perfect for people who need temporary housing (for a short-term business assignment, for example). More often these days, you'll see corporate housing companies offering their services in major metropolitan markets; corporate housing is probably your best bet in these circumstances, because you can be fairly certain that all of your needs will be met.

    Half-Bath—an apartment with an extra bathroom that has no shower.

    High-Rise Apartment—Multi-level residential building (Usually five or more levels).

    Kitchenette—An area in an apartment that includes core items normally found in a kitchen, such as a refrigerator, freezer, stovetop, microwave, and some shelves and drawers.

    Lease (leasing Agreement)—A rental contract between a landlord and tenant, by which an owner/landlord conveys the "right of possession" (i.e., to live in and use a property) temporarily to a tenant, for a set sum of money—usually, but not always, per month.

    Loft apartments—A large, open-space apartment with high ceilings and large windows, often the result of a conversion of a former industrial building.

    Move-in Specials—Apartment communities offering lease incentives such as "1 month free upfront or prorated," "no application fee," etc.

    Parties to a Lease—Those who agree to abide by the provisions of a lease; typically you as a tenant, any roommates, and the apartment complex owner.

    Pro-Rated Rent—The most common scenario for paying pro-rated rent is if you don't begin occupying the apartment at the first of the month. In that case, your landlord may agree to charge you only a part of the month's rent. If you move in October 15 instead of October 1, for example, you can be charged 16 days' rent (October 15 to 31) instead of 31. Beginning November 1, you would then be charged the normal monthly rate.

    Renter's Insurance—If your possessions are stolen during a break-in or damaged by a fire or severe weather, a renter's insurance policy will allow you to recover their value. If someone is injured during an accident in your home, renter's insurance will help protect you in the case of a liability lawsuit.

    Security Deposit—An advanced fee or deposit. This is to cover any damages to the apartment found by the landlord when you leave. The security deposit should be returned to you when you leave the apartment. Here's a note about deposits from the Chicago Tenants Union: "In Chicago and Evanston, the security deposit which the landlord is holding is actually the property of the tenant. Within 30 days of moving out, the landlord should notify you, in writing, whether he or she is going to make any deductions from your security deposit for repairs for damages you caused. If the landlord does not notify you of damages, then the landlord is obligated to return the security deposit within 45 days of your moving out. If the landlord notifies you of the estimated cost of repairs, he or she has an additional 30 days to furnish you with paid receipts. In Evanston, the landlord has 21 days to make deductions and must return the security deposit within 21 days."

    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.

    Sublease—A lease between a current tenant (called a sublessor or subtenant) and another person (called a sublessee) who occupies the apartment either along with the tenant or alone and pays rent to the tenant. Many landlords ban subleases altogether or require specific approval of each one.

    Sublessee—A person who rents an apartment from a tenant under a sublease.

    Sublet—Agreeing to permit someone to use a rental property for a term less than the full term of the apartment lease and to be paid for that permission.

    Studio—An apartment where the bedroom is also the living room and the kitchen.

    Tenement—Building with many apartments, most of which open out onto an airshaft.

    Utilities—Apartment utilities often refer to heat, electricity, water, and Internet.

    Walk-up Apartments—Four to five story apartment buildings with no elevator and usually no doorman. They were originally constructed as multifamily housing and lack the charm and elegance of traditional brownstones or townhouses.

    Illinois Tenants Union,
    Apartment Ninjas: Glossary Glossary
    Emerson College: Apartment Vocabulary


  • Off-campus housing refers to locations where students live that are not owned or leased by SAIC.

  • This answer varies greatly in Chicago. To assist you in your search, we have gathered average rent prices for several Chicago neighborhoods. SAIC created a map showing the concentration of SAIC students who live off campus based on the address they have registered with the school, (see pages 11–15 of the Undergraduate Off-Campus Housing in Chicago‌ PDF). From this map, we researched rent prices on a few neighborhoods with very large and smaller up-and-coming populations. Also, we added other helpful information such as the public transportation that is available from that neighborhood.

  • SAIC does not provide temporary housing, but short-term housing can be found easily around the city. We are pleased to provide links to many such places. For a list of such places please look at page 9 of the Undergraduate Off-Campus Housing in Chicago‌ [PDF].

  • You can find out about everything from events on campus such as visiting artists and educational programming through our SAIC website, emails, and postings on bulletin boards around the SAIC campus.

  • The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses and trains travel throughout Chicago's neighborhoods during the day and evening. SAIC partners with the CTA to provide free transportation on CTA routes via the U-Pass for both fall and spring terms. Buses and trains make other parts of the city easily accessible. Also, many students choose to bring or buy a bicycle, which is a convenient mode of transportation. It is strongly recommended that a bicycle always be secured with a sturdy lock.

  • Many off-campus students cook for themselves, buying groceries from grocery stores or from a delivery service. Students always have access to one of SAIC's three on campus dining locations located in the LeRoy Neiman Center, the Columbus Drive building, and the MacLean Center. Students can place money on their ARTICard to assist with managing their dining options. ARTICash can be used at any of the three on campus cafés. 

  • Residence Life staff invites students to come into our office (Sullivan Center, 36 South Wabash Avenue, suite 1203) to discuss with one of our staff members. Residence Life staff can help you utilize a plethora of resources provided by the City of Chicago.

  • For information about how your student’s financial aid package may be affected by the move off-campus, please set up an appointment with a Financial Aid advisor.

  • Yes! If you are considering moving back on campus, contact Residence Life as soon as possible. Current students apply for housing in late February/early March for the next school year. Students who may be looking to live on campus for the spring semester only would generally apply in November.

  • Depending on your lease, you may be able to sublet your apartment for a temporary block of time. You would find a suitable subletter, and this temporary occupant would pay the landlord or you (contingent on the written leasing agreement) the monthly rent and utilities for a predetermined amount of time before you return and take over the payments.

  • Short-term Storage (e.g., over the summer)
    The end of the spring semester always comes with many moves. If you would like to go home for the summer there are facilities that offer storage on a month-to-month basis. Collegeboxes, a U-Haul company, offers both boxes and storage for winter and summer months to SAIC residents on and off campus. CollegeBoxes will deliver boxes, pick the packed boxes up and deliver them to the storage facility, and drop them off when you return or move to a new place. 

    Long-term Storage (e.g., over an academic year)
    Chicago has many storage facilities students can store art, furniture, and any number of things that you are not able house within your new space. Some options include, Metro Self Storage, CubeSmart, and ExtraSpace Storage.

  • We understand your concern. Chicago is the nation’s third largest city, and where this many people occupy the same space, safety does become a concern. There are Internet sites dedicated to monitoring the safety of Chicago neighborhoods. The Chicago Police Department CLEARMAP allows you to research maps that determine the number of crime incidents, registered sex offenders, and registered gun offenders in a particular neighborhood as well as read crime summaries by beat, find community clubs and address community concerns.