CHALLENGES for International Renters
There are several challenges that International Students commonly encounter when renting off-campus.
Passing a Credit Check
Most property managers/landlords require perspective tenants to pass a credit check. They are typically only able to look up someone’s credit history within the USA. That means that even if you DO meet the credit requirements in your home country (which many American students do NOT), it does not count unless your banking was done within the USA.
If perspective tenants do not meet credit requirements, they are usually required to have a co-signer. A co-signer is someone who agrees to take on the responsibility of making your rent payments or any other costs associated with the lease if you are not able to make the payments. A co-signer typically has to meet credit requirements in order to be approved. Most property management companies and landlords require that your co-signer lives in the USA. Some companies only accept co-signers that live in Missoula.
Understanding the lease
Lease agreements are full of confusing legal terms so that even native English speakers have a hard time understanding them. If there are parts of your lease that you don’t understand, make an appointment to review it with the Renter Center BEFORE you sign it.
Renting Sight Unseen
Although most students would prefer to have their housing set up before they arrive in Missoula, it is VERY RISKY to agree to rent a unit without first having a chance to view it IN PERSON. Consider staying in a hotel or motel when you first arrive so that you can search for a place in person. Or, if you have contacts in Missoula, ask them to go see the rental for you and take photos of it that you can review before you agree to live there.
Temporary housing options in Missoula that have weekly rates (typically cheaper than paying nightly rates):
Campus Inn Missoula / Family Inn Missoula / Staybridge Suites / Motel 6 Missoula - University / Airbnb.com
If your landlord wrongfully withholds your deposit at the end of your tenancy (this is NOT UNCOMMON), it is nearly impossible to go after them for your money if you have already left the country. If you are leaving Missoula immediately after your tenancy, consider keeping this information from your landlord to protect yourself from potentially getting taken advantage of.
Your landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit. (unless they are refunding your full deposit—then they only have 10 days). The law requires you to provide a forwarding address where they can send the check to. Make sure you ASK ABOUT THIS and make arrangements if needed.
Finding a unit that is fully furnished
International students typically do not have furniture and want to avoid buying it for the short time that they are living here. Renting furniture can be an (expensive) option. We recommend looking for a unit that is already furnished, so that it is a non-issue.
Length of lease term
Landlords often prefer that you sign a 9 or 12 month lease. You do not want to be legally obligated to pay rent for time that you do not plan on being in Missoula, so you want to find a lease that only lasts as long as you plan on being in town. If you do sign a lease for a longer period of time, ask your landlord about subletting (see the subletting section of the Off-Campus Living Guide) or inquire about the landlord's policies on adding/dropping roommates from the lease agreement mid-way through the lease.