Off Campus 101 Emodule

What is the Off-Campus 101 E-Module?

This module is composed of a series of pages created by Leadership and Community Connections, the Student's Attorney, and Student Conduct and Community Responsibilitiess, which are a part of the Dean of Students Office. These pages include both information as well as assessments that will prepare you to live off-campus. By the end you will be able to:


While you are not being graded on this module, it is important that you take away the expected learning outcomes. In order to accomplish this, there are a series of "assessments" throughout the workshop that will help ensure that you understand all the information and resources at your disposal.

These assessments are marked by a or a icon. When you see the icon, click on it and the assessment will begin. All assessments allow for infinite attempts because in the end, the most important thing is that you understand all the information provided in the module. When you are sure that you have selected the correct answer, click to see if you were correct or if you need to try again. If you get an answer wrong, you must retry that entire quiz group.


When you are ready to advance, or if you need to go back a page, you may do so by using the links at the bottom of the page.

What is the University On-Campus Housing Policy?

The University requires students to live in university housing their first two years out of high school unless they have an off-campus exemption. If you are a transfer student, took a year off out of high school, or have another type of accommodation, contact University Housing Services. Students who fall under the University On-Campus Housing Policy will not be able to register for classes until University Housing Services receives their residence hall contract and initial payment or when they have an approved exemption.

Exemption Information

University Housing may grant exemptions to the on-campus housing policy for an individuals circumstance related to marital status, proximity of home to campus, as well as other factors. Although an exemption is submitted, it does not guarantee approval. Any exemption to the University On Campus Housing Policy must be approved in writing by University Housing Services prior to the beginning of the contract period for which the exemption is requested. The availability of exemptions will be limited to students with demonstrated need once spaces for the incoming class are allotted. Sophomore students that are activated members of fraternities and sororities and wish to reside in their organization's house must apply for an exemption prior to July 15. Exemptions to reside in a fraternity or sorority house are only considered on a full academic year basis; they are not considered for spring semester only. The sorority or fraternity chapter must be in good standing with the University. Any exemption to live in a sorority or fraternity on probation will not be granted.


Check with University Housing Services for exemption request deadlines.

If you are pursuing an exemption, do not sign a lease until the exemption has been granted. It can be financially risky to sign a lease without an exemption. Some students have signed leases, and then were not granted an exemption, resulting in a financial obligation to the University and a landlord.


If you wish to apply for an exemption to live off-campus:

  1. Visit Click on "Enter Housing/Dining Portal and log in. Select "Housing and Dining Application" from the blue navigation bar at the top.
  2. Choose either the  Residence Halls  term or the  Cardinal Court  term and select "Save and Continue."
  3. Follow the steps in the Portal for submitting an exemption request online. Your request will be reviewed, and a decision will be e-mailed to you within 10 business days.

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No matter what time of year, do not rush into the leasing process. Having to sign a lease for an apartment by October is a myth. You are or will be getting a lot of messages about the urgency of finding an apartment.   There is plenty of time and a plethora of apartments to choose from.   If there is another commitment that is causing uncertainty  about where you will be next fall, (e.g. applying to be an RA, leaving ISU, studying abroad) then do not sign a lease. Make sure you are positive about needing to live off-campus before signing a lease!


Answer below if the following are facts (true) or myths (false).


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Where do I start?

All of these things must be considered when searching for off-campus living and are usually the most important factors for students.






What is your Budget?

Living off-campus does not have to be more expensive than living on-campus unless you want to live in a high end/luxury apartment. Knowing your monthly budget is critical before signing a lease. Talk to your parents and/or financial aid about what you have for monthly rent before apartment searching. You may want certain features but simply cannot afford them; it is important to understand what amenities you want/need in an apartment but also what you can afford.


All-inclusive apartments vs. apartments where you pay your own utilities?

 All-inclusive apartments usually mean that all utilities are included in the lease. Common utilities found in these apartments include electricity, gas, heating and cooling, and internet. Some could even include cable, a fitness center, or pool access. Instead of receiving multiple bills, in an all-inclusive apartment, everything will be included in just your one rent bill. However, this does not mean you can take advantage of over using your utilities. When reviewing an all-inclusive lease, there will be a utility cap for certain utilities (water, heat, cooling, and electricity). If you go over the utility cap found in your lease, you will receive an extra bill with the difference owed. Make sure to manage your utility usage by talking to your landlord about utility caps before signing an all-inclusive apartment lease.


When you have a "pay your own utilities" lease, multiple bills will be coming to your mailbox. You will have to pay your rent, gas, electricity, water, and internet utility bills. With this type of lease, you have more control over the amount you pay or type of utility package. Make sure to sign a lease that works best for you and your roommates, and your budget.


Brainstorm five costs that you may have as part of your off-campus living budget (-groceries, gas, parking permit, etc).


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Location, Location, Location

Location is a key factor in the off-campus housing search. Below is a list of pros and cons when considering off-campus housing.

Pros of living close to campus

Cons of living close to campus


-Walking distance to the University. Do not need a form of transportation or parking pass in order to get to classes.


-Easier to become involved around campus.


-Closer to ISU facilities such as the Student Fitness Center or Library.


-Could be more expensive. An apartment that is a five minute driving distance from campus could be less expensive.




-The closer you are to campus, the noisier it can be. Could having a potential nosier apartment impact your current study and sleep habits?



If you choose to live away from campus, make sure you have the appropriate transportation or understand that public bus transportation is free for ALL ISU students. Please check for the complete bus route around Bloomington Normal. Remember, There is also an easy to use app called DoubleMap Bus Tracker, which you can download from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. This app will let you know when buses will be at your location.



Consider Safety


When picking a place to live, safety should be a high priority. Housing could look safe during the daytime, but could be in a poorly lit area during the night. Although the Town of Normal is relatively safe, make sure to follow the tips below.


  1. Ask questions to current tenants
  2. Ask the landlord
  3. Check for lighting during the night
  4. Ensure the door system has locks and a peephole
  5. Check windows/screens
  6. Consider if you want to live in a secure building. A secure building is locked from the outside 24 hours a day.
  7. All apartments are required to have fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors.


Another important resource is the Town Crime Map . Student housing is mainly in section 12







The Off-Campus Housing Search

The best way to search for off-campus housing is the Off-Campus Housing Database. You can search for vacant listings, roommates, and subleasors all in one place!


This database can help you find the most ideal living situation. It allows you to search by several different criteria: pets, number of roommates, number of bathrooms, and your price range. Not only can you search for vacant listings, but you can also find off-campus housing for subleasing, find roommates, and post your own off-campus housing to be subleased.


Take some time looking over the off-campus database. Visit and click Search Vacant Listings on the left hand side of the screen. We suggest the following:

REMEMBER to go see the apartment in person before signing a lease.

Signing A Lease

Signing a lease is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Signing a lease is committing to the apartment! A lease is a legally binding document you cannot get out of if you change your mind. Once again, DO NOT RUSH into signing a lease if you are considering applying to be an RA, leaving ISU, or studying abroad next school year.


When thinking about off-campus housing, there are two types of leases to consider.

1. Individual Lease: An individual lease allows all roommates to sign their OWN lease. Each roommate under an individual lease is responsible for their own rent. So, if a roommate does not pay their rent, the other roommates will not be held responsible for the rent. Example: If your roommate does not pay their $400 in rent, you will still only have your $400 to pay.

2. Joint lease: You are all responsible jointly for the lease. Therefore, the landlord can hold the other roommates responsible for the cost if a roommate does not pay their rent or utilities. Example: If your only roommate does not pay their $400 in rent, you are responsible not only for your $400, but also theirs. Your total payment is now $800.


There is also a "Co-Signer" lease which requires having a parent or guardian to sign the lease as well. They will be responsible for paying the rent if you do not. Example: You did not pay your $400 in rent, so now your parents will receive a bill in the mail to pay.

– In some cases, if all parties have their parents as a co-signer, then the joint lease will be treated like an individual lease.

– Some parents are unwilling or unable to be a co-signer which means you must find a company that doesn't require one. Please contact Leadership and Community Connections at or (309)438-7346 for assistance if this is your situation; they can provide specific recommendations.

– If you are unable to have a parent or guardian sign your lease and your lease has a "guaranty clause", you are likely required to pay a substantial proportion of your rent in advance prior to receiving a key to the apartment. Example: the total rent for your two person apartment is $10,000. Your roommate has his guardian cosign the lease so he is allowed to pay monthly, but you will have to pay $2,500 upfront at the beginning of the lease.

Sublease: If you cannot live in the apartment for any reason, you will have to find someone to sublease the apartment. This means a person would take over the remaining duration of your lease agreement. The Off-Campus Housing Database is a great tool to use when trying to find a subleaser.


Leases typically allow landlords to enter the apartment at what is termed "reasonable" time for inspection, maintenance, or to show the apartment to prospective tenants. This often causes consternation for the tenants who have either not read the lease, or do not understand the consequences of the "right of entry" paragraph contained within the lease.

You should always have an attorney look over your lease. The Dean of Students Office has a Students' Attorney who will do free lease reviews!!! Set up an appointment to discuss your lease before you sign it by calling 309-438-2008.


Miscellaneous Items to Remember



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Lease Cost

Security Deposit

When signing a lease, remember there will be a security deposit. A security deposit is an amount  tenants  pay their landlords UPFRONT to ensure the cost of repair in relation to any damage specified in the lease. Landlords may take money from your security deposit if damage from you/friends/roommates to your apartment happens. The standard is those damages considered beyond normal wear and tear. If your apartment is properly cleaned and has no damage at the end of your lease, expect the full return of your security deposit when the lease expires. If the apartment is not well kept or if there is unpaid rent, you may not get all of your security deposit back.

Security deposit amount could vary from $50 - $800. Your lease will explain how much your security deposit is. Make sure you have this extra money upfront. For example, you may have to pay $400 for rent your first month and a $300 security deposit. All together you are paying $700 for your first payment.

An application fee is different than a security deposit. An application fee, which is usually $30, is nonrefundable. Some companies ask students to pay a fee to even apply for living at an apartment. This fee, similar to the fee you possibly paid to apply at ISU, will be used for a background check and the cost associated with processing paperwork.


Renters Insurance

Renters insurance can protect valuable personal property since the landlord's insurance doesn't cover your belongings if something is lost, stolen, or damaged. Examples of when a person would use renters insurance include a fire, water pipe burst, severe weather, and theft.

This insurance can protect you if a visitor has an accident in or around your apartment due to unsafe conditions. Renters insurance isn't common among student renters, but it is absolutely something you should consider. Talk to your parents about adding renters insurance to their home owners insurance policy or look to purchase directly from an insurance company. This cost is approximately $5 - $25 per month. This is not required to sign a lease, but we highly encourage renters insurance for your protection.



Move in/Living Off-Campus

The day has come and you are finally ready to move into your off-campus housing! Before moving any of your belongings into your new living space, make sure to do a walk-through with your landlord. Any scratches, paint blemishes, or broken utilities should be recorded. Remember to report issues or damages right away when moving in so you are not fined later. Take date stamped pictures/video of ANYTHING you feel is warranted in order to protect your security deposit. Keep a log of any damages, or go through the attached inventory checklist with your landlord at the start of your lease. Be sure to fill out the inventory/checklist before moving in. Make sure you sign it, along with an agent from the rental company, but don't sign the document without reviewing it .

If an issue arises with your housing, make sure to report all problems to your landlord and/or maintenance services immediately. Persistent or unresponsive issues, (such as a broken water pipe, overflowing toilet, electrical problem, or mold in your apartment) should be reported immediately. If you are unable to get a response by your landlord in a timely matter, contact Town of Normal Inspections (309-454-9581) or the Dean of Students Office Students' Attorney ( 309-438-2008).


Moving out/Getting your security deposit returned

When moving out, make sure you clean! Many leasing companies will charge for improper cleaning.

Take date stamped pictures and/or video of the apartment when moving out. This will provide documentation for any charges you feel are unwarranted. If you do not receive your full deposite back, you are entitled to an itemized list of charges and receipts for work that was done on the apartment after you moved out. Question any charges you feel were unwarranted or incorrect. Make sure to contact ISU's Students' Attorney if a problem has not been resolved promptly or if you need assistance.

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I Am Normal

It is a misconception that you are not a community member of the Town of Normal when going to college. In Fall 2013, Illinois State University and the Town of Normal launched the "I Am Normal" campaign. This campaign encourages students to be more engaged and responsible citizens of the Normal community. Please remember being a good citizen involves multiple entities such as yourself, neighbors and roommates, landlord, Bloomington/Normal, and the ISU community. An off-campus student can be a good citizen by adhering to the following:

  1. Be aware of noise levels (especially early in the morning or late at night); be respectful of student and non-student neighbors.
  2. Keep your place looking nice. Pick up trash in the yard and keep furniture indoors.
  3. Seek out campus/community resources before hosting a party to do so safely and respectfully. Off-Campus ordinance violations from the town are shared with the university and students may find themselves in the conduct process with Student Conduct and Community Responsibilities (SCCR).
  4. Get to know your neighbors. Say hi!

 Below is the "I Am Normal" Pledge.


I am an Illinois State Student and I am a citizen of Normal. I pledge to:




Community Relations

City ordinances are local government laws that should be taken serious. Knowing city ordinances when living off-campus is extremely important...especially when hosting a party.

Common Town of Normal ordinances that students encounter are listed below.

  •Unlawful sale of alcohol: $750

  •Furnishing alcohol to a minor: $350

  •Unlawful possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor: $275

  •Possession of alcohol in a public place: $275

  •Fighting: $275

  •Public urination: $100

  •Sound amplification: $100

These fines are for first time violations; subsequent violations can result in higher fines! Violations of town ordinances could also be violations of the Code of Student Conduct.

Some violations that fall under the alcohol policy per the Code of Student Conduct are:

Possessing, purchasing, distributing, manufacturing, or consuming any alcoholic beverage unless that student is at least twenty-one years of age. Students of legal age may possess or consume alcoholic beverages only in specified areas and only in compliance with all other University regulations and guidelines related to alcohol consumption.

Selling alcohol. Students may not sell alcohol at any time without possessing an appropriate license.


Social Host

Please be aware of your social host responsibilities when hosting a party. Social hosting refers to the legal responsibility of the person(s) who supplies the alcohol to those who consume the alcohol. A social host should never provide alcohol to minors when throwing a party and should always be aware of who is at the party. Charging people for alcohol without the proper license even if they are above the age of 21 is against the law.


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Congratulations! You have successfully completed the Off-Campus 101 online module. You are now ready to search for off-campus housing!


Looking for more information on Off-Campus Housing? Check out these on and off-campus resources for your convenience:


For completing the online module, you will be entered into a monthly prize drawing. To enter into the drawing, do the following: