You should start looking for accommodation well in advance as it may take time to find suitable apartment or vacancy in an apartment. Good apartments are always in short supply. If you already know people in Richmond, you may make temporary arrangements of stay with them. Otherwise, just send an email on VCUDesis and ask if anyone is willing to let you stay for few days.
This process is a bit cumbersome, but you have an assurance that you will have a place to sleep when you land here. Recently, few of the apartment complexes around VCU (including Berkshire) have started leasing apartments to VCU students who have not yet landed here and do not have a Social Security Number. These are generally the steps involved in this process:
- Find an apartment complex that suits your needs (rent, distance from campus etc)
- Find people who will share the apartment with you. Send a mail on our VCU Desis Yahoo Group if you already haven't found any.
- Contact the building manager to find available apartments
- Manager will email/fax the forms, instructions, terms and conditions and other documents
- Go through all documents/forms, fill them carefully and sign them. All roommate are required to sign the lease
- Fax these documents along with your I-20 and any other document asked for by the manager.
- Pay the application fee, reservation fee and/or security deposit (read more about this below) to the manager.
- Get confirmation from manager and make sure all the documents have been received and dues paid.
- Make sure you get a move-in date from the manager.
Security deposit and advance rent:
Generally a deposit of $200-300 is required to reserve an apartment and this is charged with all the new lease signed. Since you do not have an SSN and no credit history, the management might ask for an amount equal to one or two month's rent as additional deposit. This amount is adjusted towards the end of your lease.
Let's say you paid one month's rent as a deposit at the time of signing the lease of one year, towards the end of lease, you will get one month "free". All these specifics depend on the policies of management and vary from one to another.
How to pay:
This is a bit of an issue as most managements do not accept credit card payments. In this case, your options are a) sending a Draft made in US$ issued by an Indian bank or b) if you know someone in US, you can ask them to pay for you and you can pay them when you arrive.
This is the easiest of them all. You don't have to go through the hassles of security deposit, credit check and you can get a furnished place to live. You can send a mail on our VCU Desis Yahoo Group and ask if someone is looking for new roommates.
As a matter of curtsey to your fellow desis, please keep these things in mind when you look for roommates:
- Clarify if you have any preferences, e.g. vegetarian, non-smoking etc
- Clarify if you will get your own room or will you be sharing it with someone
- Once you commit, be firm with your decision. It has happened in past that people who have committed to being roommates have moved in with someone else. Please do not abolish the trust that exists here. If it is unavoidable, please convey it to your roommate and explain him/her the reasons.
- Do not commit to multiple people at the same time trying to get the "best deal".
Process pretty much same as signing the lease from India, but little more convenient as you can sign the lease on the spot pay the fee right away. You can actually see the apartment, see how it fits your needs and decide. If you manage to get your Social Security Number (SSN), you may not have to pay a large security deposit.