Community Housing: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is eligible to use the Community Housing office for finding housing?
A: Any current direct Stanford affiliate can use this service. This includes students, employees, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, visiting scholars, and visiting researchers. Alumni, however, are not eligible to use the service.

Q: What is the rental market like right now?
A: Silicon Valley is booming and rents remain high. The market for cottages, houses and apartments is tighter than for rooms and shared rentals. Rooms can sit vacant for long periods of time, so if you see an ad and know that it has been running for a while, you should not assume that it has been rented or that there is something wrong with it! The toughest market is for short-term housing. With so many visiting researchers and people coming to do medical rotations, it can be very difficult to find a short-term rental.

Q: Does the Community Housing office get the housing listings from the newspapers?
A: No. Landlords submit rental listings directly to Places 4 Students in order to reach prospective Stanford tenants.

Q: What other resources should I use?
A: Check www.craigslist.org and www.supost.com. Because of free on-line advertising, the newspapers no longer have many rental ads. However, you might still want to check the local papers, These might include the Palo Alto Weekly, the Stanford Report, the Los Altos Town Crier, the Almanac or the San Jose Mercury News. All of the newspapers mentioned here have on-line versions.

Q: The Places 4 Students website requires a password for incoming Stanford affiliates who do not yet have a SUNet ID. How do I get the password?
A: Send proof of Stanford affiliation, via email, to the Community Housing office at communityhousing@stanford.edu.  We will promptly send you additional information and instructions needed to access the rental listings.

Q: How often are the rental listings updated?
A: Listings are updated continually, as often as landlords in the community have availability. 

Q: Are the posted rents discounted in any way?
A: In general, no. However, there are some landlords who offer lower rents in order to help students - most of these are people with rooms for rent in their homes.

Q: How far ahead of time can I secure housing?
A: In this area, most landlords don't advertise a vacancy until it is already available, or up to a month ahead of time. For this reason, you should time your concentrated housing search for as close to your desired move-in date as possible.

Q: How long should I allow to secure housing?
A: You should allow two weeks, keeping in mind that you may be lucky and find something in two days or unlucky and not find anything for a month. If you have a pet (especially a dog) or have a very limited amount of money to spend on rent, it will probably take you longer to find housing.

Q: Should I hire an apartment-locating service?
A: Many of these services charge a fee - sometimes as much as a month's rent. In this area, that can be a considerable amount of money! For this reason, we recommend that you try to find something on your own. On the other hand, some rentals are only advertised through these services, and so your only chance to rent a particular unit may be through such a service. In this case, you will have to decide if the unit is worth the extra money.

Q: Where do most Stanford affiliates live?
A: Stanford affiliates are scattered all over the area - generally within 5 miles of campus. Many people prefer to be within Palo Alto and Menlo Park because of the proximity to campus, but these cities are more expensive than most of the surrounding communities. More and more Stanford affiliates are choosing Redwood City, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale because of the lower rents.

Q: What time of year do leases begin in this area?
A: There is no certain time of year when leases/rental agreements begin. Start dates are available at all times of month and all times of year.

Q: Is there anything I can do to make myself a more appealing tenant?
A: You need to sell yourself somewhat, as if you were applying for a job. Make your house-hunting calls between 9 AM and 9 PM so as not to disturb anyone's sleep, be punctual for appointments, call the landlord if you are delayed or need to cancel an appointment, dress neatly, and be polite. Make yourself a list of questions to ask when viewing a unit, and be sure not to ask questions that were answered by the advertisement to which you responded. Address any concerns you have about the condition of the unit and/or appliances, but try not to seem overly nit-picky. If you like the unit, say so. If you definitely want to rent the unit, apply for it on the spot. The day after applying, call the landlord to thank him/her for showing you the unit and to express your enthusiasm for the unit.

Q: What information should I have available to give to a landlord?
A:         - Your residence history - dates, addresses, rents, and names and (current) phone numbers of managers/landlords.
            - Your employment history (if any) - dates, titles, company/school names, names and (current) phone numbers of your supervisors.
            - Current credit information - creditor names, addresses, and monthly payment amounts.
            - A copy of your credit report, if possible.
            - Income information - amounts of income from employment, student loans, grants, parental support, government support, trust funds, etc. Provide documentation where possible (one month of pay stubs, offer letter, bank statements, etc).

Q: I'm an international visitor.  Are landlords less likely to rent to me?
A: In most cases, international visitors will not have U.S. credit history, so it will be more difficult for a potential landlord to assess how likely you will be to pay your rent, and on time.  In an effort to mitigate risks, you may be asked for an additional deposit (most likely equal to one month's rent).  This is for the landlord's protection, in case you end up leaving without notice, so they are financially covered for the time it will take them to find a new tenant.  

Q: Are there application fees in this area?
A: Yes. Landlords can charge a fee for processing applications and running credit checks. However, if they do not run a credit check on you they are required to refund that portion of the fee. Fees often range from $20-$50 per adult (18 years old and over).

Q: If I have a problem with a landlord, what should I do?
A: First, try to work it out with the landlord. It is a good idea to communicate in writing or follow up your conversations with a letter confirming your understanding of what was said or decided. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may want to use some of the following resources. The Community Housing Services office has books on landlord/tenant law that you can look at while at the office. Residents of San Mateo county can use the mediation services available through the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (650-345-7272). Residents of Santa Clara county can contact Project Sentinel (408-720-9888). Registered students can make an appointment with the ASSU Legal Counseling Office for legal advice (650-375-2481). If you feel that there is a problem with discrimination, call Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) at 855-ASK-ECHO or 510-581-9380.

Q: Is there public transportation in the area?
A: The public transportation system here is not extensive, but it does exist. Caltrain runs along the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. It has stops in neighboring cities to Stanford, such as Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. Stanford operates a free shuttle that runs from various locations on campus to the Downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station, to the Sharon Heights district of Menlo Park, and even as far out as the San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View.  There are local buses that run up and down El Camino Real, along Middlefield Road, and to many other locations in the Bay Area.  If you are willing to put up with a long commute, and will need to be at Stanford during general business hours (8am to 5pm), there are buses that run between Stanford and the East Bay (Fremont, Union City, and Newark). Stanford's Parking & Transportation Services office has a comprehensive website with links to route maps and schedules.