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Housing Basics

New International Undergraduate students should apply for on campus housing after obtaining admission through the UAB Student Housing and Residence Life website. Unfortunately, UAB cannot provide on campus housing for international Graduate students and international scholars. On campus accommodation is primarily reserved for Undergraduate students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at UAB. International scholars and Graduate students are responsible for finding their own local accommodation. A good place to begin your housing search is the UAB Off Campus Student and Family Engagement Housing website. There you can search for housing and roommates, as well as post sublet listings.

We advise you to book temporary housing for your first few days or weeks in Birmingham. It will give you some time to visit the area and select a place that fits your budget and your needs. Please know that you have the option to rent furniture if needed. Below are resources, information and tips to help you in your search.


Here are a few terms to know when renting a house or apartment in the US:

Rental TermsMeaning
Lease Rental Agreement – please read it carefully, especially the conditions for the end-of-contract obligations and termination clause. Usually the lease lasts a fixed amount of time (6 months, 9 months, 12 months or more)
Landlord Owner of the apartment or manager of the apartment
Tenant You
Rent Amount that you pay every month
Security Deposit Amount that the landlord will hold until the end of the lease for repairs in the event you damage the apartment – usually 1 month rent
Utilities Water, electricity, gas, phone, cable/satellite TV, internet etc. The rent may include some utilities – ask when you visit.
Pet Deposit At many properties pets are not allowed, and if allowed you are required to pay an additional fee
Guarantor This is someone who co-signs your lease to guarantee that your rent will be paid. By co-signing, they agree to pay your rent if you are unable to for any reason. A guarantor is usually a trustworthy, financially stable person with good credit, such as a parent or guardian. If you are unable to secure a guarantor on your own, you can use a guarantor service.

What Documents Do I Need?

Requirements for applications vary, but generally landlords are looking for proof that you are who you say you are, proof that you earn enough to pay rent each month, and proof that you’ll be a hassle-free tenant. When you aren’t a U.S. citizen, landlords also want assurance that you are in the country legally. All you need to do to validate the above to a prospective landlord is provide them with the right documents.

Here are some documents you should present:

  • Passport as proof of your identity
  • Visa, DS-2019 or I-20, and I-94 as proof of your legal immigration status
  • Proof of income or assets
  • Personal references
  • A potential guarantor


The most important piece of advice is to read property documents before you sign them. Signing a lease is a legally binding document.

Some leases are month-to-month (meaning you can leave after any given month, with no obligation to keep renting a particular dwelling for any specific length of time), some are for 6 or 9 months, and some are for 1 year or 2 years. Consider how long you want to live in a certain place before signing a longer lease.

Some rental companies will also allow you to move in or out only in certain months. Since many local properties serve UAB students, often they will want you to start your lease in August or early September and move out the following July.

When visiting an apartment complex or rental house, ask the agent the following questions so that you can make the best decision on where to live, and for how long.

  • How much is the monthly rent, and on what day is it due?
  • Can I pay rent online, or do I need to bring a check?
  • Does the monthly rent include any utilities (e.g., water, electricity, gas, phone (if you want a landline), cable/satellite TV, internet)? If so, which ones?
  • Do you require a security deposit? If so, is the security deposit refundable at the end of the lease?
  • How long are your rental terms (month-to-month, 6 months, one year)?
  • What will I owe if I must break my lease before the end of the agreement?
  • Does the lease renew automatically? If so, when will I be notified of any increase in rent?

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