What is a Commuter?
Like more than 80% of UA students, if you live or intend to live off campus and drive, ride, walk or run to school YOU are a commuter.
Get Involved and Stay Involved on Campus
Some commuter students have told us they sometimes feel disconnected, unsupported, uninformed and alone living off campus. We are here to help ease those anxieties with links to resources, programs and services designed provide you with many opportunities to connect and get involved in campus life.
How to use this page
Click on any of the images to the left for Useful Forms, Utilities, Maps, Transportation and Parking, Legal Info, Safety and information for Families.
Useful Forms & Helpful Hints
sample letters and other legal forms
Ready to Find Your Perfect Place?
STEP 1: GET READY
Start the Search
If you are thinking of living off-campus, begin making plans immediately. New students should plan to arrive in Tucson 15 to 30 days before the beginning of the semester to secure housing. By avoiding the rush, you will be more likely to find an off-campus situation that you will be pleased with. Housing is available in Tucson year round; however, the longer you wait the more likely it is that you may have to accept a place that does not perfectly suit you.
Remember to constantly check housing listings for updates to give yourself as many options as possible. Above all, don’t wait until the last minute to find housing–you’ll have more choices earlier!
On the other hand, do not allow yourself to be pressured into signing a lease or a pre-lease agreement unless you are certain you want that unit. There will still be plenty of housing available through the summer.
STEP 2: GET SET
What will your expenses will be? Include rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and dining out expenses; use the budgeting form to the right to estimate your expenses. Download a budget worksheet!
House, Apartment or Other?
Decide what type of housing you would like to live in (for example: single rooms in houses, apartment complex, duplexes, houses, or mobile homes). The details regarding all of these vary greatly, so you will need to be sure of the written details before you sign any rental agreement.
Make a list of the things you are looking for in a place to live, and take this with you on your search. For ideas about what you might want to look for in an apartment, visit the Housing Locator
section of the Guide (see pages 71). Consider proximity to public transportation, laundry facilities, shopping, and off-street parking. Check the landlord’s policy on water beds, pets, subleases, smoking, parties– whatever is important to you.
Determine how many roommates you would like to have and who they are. Be very careful in picking roommates: you may not really know a person until you move in; and once you sign the lease you are forming a legally binding agreement
. Renting a house or apartment with several other people could help defray costs, but also has disadvantages. Roommate problems, which may be minor if you have one roommate, can become quite complicated if they involve three or four others. Be sure to take this into account when you are considering roommates.
STEP 3: GO
Hit the road to narrow down the area of Tucson you would like to live in. Walk or drive through that neighborhood and take note of the “For Rent” signs. Check local newspapers (ads listed under Central Tucson will be in the University vicinity), campus papers, and Off-Campus Housing Services
When you visit apartment complexes, ask to see units that are not models, as models are generally not accurate representations of what your apartment will be.
Inspect for Security Outside
When inspecting a housing unit, be sure to check the exterior for adequate lighting in parking areas, pathways, front door, and surrounding areas that you may be using. Look at the landscaping. Are trees and shrubbery blocking doors and windows? Could someone hide undetected? Ask what sort of security system is offered. If it is a complex, are there gates or security guards? Ask if the complex offers insurance for theft. More on security
Inspect for Security Inside
When you check the interior, look for deadbolt locks. Check for a peephole in the door with a 180-degree view. Make sure sliding doors are secure. Is the front door solid core or hollow? For entrance doors use either a deadbolt lock with at least a one-inch throw, or if there is a window within reach of the door handle install a metal mesh grill over the glass. Use a security strike plate with at least two-inch screws, because normal screws do not prevent the door from being easily kicked in (one swift kick) by an intruder.
Inspect the Condition
When viewing any place you are interested in, take a careful look around. Check water pressure, appliances, lights, and storage space. Use the Condition Checklist
to help you with this process. If you want the apartment on the condition that certain repairs are made, get a written agreement from the landlord with the date of completion.
Get the Financial Skinny
Many times the bills are sent to only one of the tenants, so it is his or her responsibility to see that all of the bills are paid. You will probably sign a “joint and severable lease
,” which means that the landlord isn’t interested in who pays the rent, just that the rent is paid. Know your roommates well, and check to see how apartment complexes handle billing for rent & utilities.
Rent isn’t everything
To estimate utilities, contact the customer service departments of Southwest Gas Corporation and Tucson Electric Power Company and give them the address (Click here for contact info
). They will be able to give you the average cost for the unit over a twelve month period, plus the lowest and highest bills. Some apartment complexes use private billing services to bill for electricity. Ask the manager for the average cost per unit, but it is a good idea to verify with a current tenant, if possible.
Know Your Landlord
Who manages the place you’ll be renting and how? If there is a maintenance problem during the holidays, how is it addressed? If you want to paint, or hang artwork, what is the policy?
If the apartment is “furnished,” find out what is included, and, again, get this in writing. If the specific apartment you are going to be renting is vacant, ask to see it to be sure it is acceptable. Also, a tenant presently residing in a complex is an excellent resource to get a consumer’s view, and a chance to make a friend in the area. Renting an apartment “site unseen” is NOT a good idea.
Especially for Room Renters
Will you have your own entrance, kitchen facilities, and bathroom? If you must share, how many will you be sharing with? What kind of environment is there? Is it noisy, are there people to meet with, will you be like a member of the family, or merely a boarder?
Utility, Phone & Cable Companies
Information to help you get your utilities "hooked up"!
- Tucson Electric, 520.623.7711, Connect or disconnect your power service online
- Southwest Gas, 520.889.1888, Start, stop or transfer service online
- Tucson Water, 520.791.3242, Pay your bill online
- Comcast Digital Cable, 520.393.3191, Cable TV, high-speed Internet, telephone service
- Cox Communications, 520.884.0133, Cable TV, high-speed Internet, telephone service
- Qwest Communications, 888.285-6808, Phone, TV, Internet service
Legal Stuff & Sample Letters
Sample Tenant/Landlord Letters
- ASUA provides free, confidential, legal advice for UA students from an attorney. If you have questions or need advice about landlord / tenant law or relations, call 621-ASUA (621-2782) to make an appointment.
- Consumer Affairs is a division of the Tucson City Attorney's Office dealing specifically with landlord / tenant issues. Call 520.791.4886 with your questions. An attorney will return your call with the answer.
- Our Family Services is private agency offering safe, neutral and voluntary mediations, in English or Spanish, for a variety of neighbor and family disputes. Call 520.323.1708 x504.
- Read the full text of the City of Tucson's Red Tag law, aka the ordinance for Unruly Gatherings. Find plain English explanations in the Housing Guide's School, Work, Life section.
- Read an excerpt of the State of Arizona Landlord and Tenant Act. For the full text, go to the Arizona Secretary of State's website.
- Download an excerpt of the Fair Housing Act. US Department of Housing and Urban Development's site with the National Fair Housing Act. Arizona Fair Housing Act, Article 41, Chapter 9:7 and the Arizona Department of Housing's summary of the Arizona act.
We encourage you to use these downloadable, editable letters below; however, for serious landlord issues, please contact the attorney in Student Legal Services, located on the 3rd level of the Student Union Memorial Center. These services are provided free to registered students at the University of Arizona through student fees. Please make an appointment by calling 621-ASUA(2782).
SIGNING A LEASE: What you need to know.
Part 1: LEASE BASICS
A Lease is an agreement between landlord and tenant to transfer possession of property to the tenant for a certain period of time in exchange for rent payments. Leases may be verbal or written. Arizona law does not require a written agreement for a rental under one year, but there are advantages to having your rental agreement in writing.
Written leases offer protection by giving both tenant and landlord a permanent record of their agreement. Even month-to-month rental agreements can be made in writing. A written lease fixes all terms of the agreement so that no changes can be made for a given period of time. All obligations are set out clearly, rent cannot be increased during the period, and tenants may not be evicted unless they violate a term of the lease.
Sounds good, yes? That depends. If you have to move before the end of the period, you may be liable for the entire period. Be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign. Whether you have an oral or written agreement, when you plan to move out, you must give written notice, usually at least 30 days before the agreement ends. Written leases are binding contracts that are difficult to break once signed. You should understand and be comfortable with ALL provisions of a lease before signing.
Oral agreements have the advantage of being less formal than a written one. Unless the agreement is for a certain term (three months, six months, 20 minutes), it is considered a month–to–month agreement, and you can move out with proper notice (30 days on or before your periodic rental date if hand delivered, 35 days if notice is mailed registered or certified).
The disadvantage of a verbal contract is the lack of clarity. If you end up in court, it is your word against theirs. If your agreement is a month-to-month agreement, the landlord can raise your rent or evict you with proper notice (30 days on or before periodic rental date).
PART 2: PRE-LEASE AGREEMENTS
In order to hold a space for you in their complex, many landlords will ask you to sign a “pre-lease agreement.” We do not recommend entering into this type of agreement with a landlord. You might find yourself bound by contract to a lease before you are really ready to commit.
PART 3: BEFORE YOU SIGN THE LEASE
Landlords usually ask for a security deposit at the time the lease is signed. You may be asked to pay the last month’s rent as well. Regardless of what it is called in the lease or rental agreement, any sum you pay the landlord to hold as security for damages to the premises or unpaid rent is considered “security.”
Here are some important facts to know about deposits:
1. The total amount of such charges cannot be more than one and one-half month’s rent.
Example: Monthly rent is $350. The lease calls for a $175 security deposit, and last month’s rent of $350. The total security charged is $525. Since this equals one and one-half month’s rent, it is an acceptable amount under the law.
2. Cleaning and redecorating charges are not part of the security deposit. But if those charges are nonrefundable, the landlord must state that fact in writing. If it is not in writing, these charges cannot automatically be withheld when you move out.
Example: Your lease specifies a security deposit and a cleaning deposit. However, the lease does not say that the cleaning deposit is “nonrefundable.” When you move out, you clean the place thoroughly, but the landlord does not return the cleaning deposit. In order to legally withhold the cleaning deposit in this situation, the landlord must treat it as any other security deposit and give you a written, itemized statement of the amount spent for cleaning your former residence. (See the excerpt of the law
for a complete description of the law concerning the return of security deposits.)
3. Make sure the charges you pay at the beginning of your tenancy are clearly explained in your lease or rental agreement.
Example: Your lease specifies a security deposit of $350, which is equal to a month’s rent. When you sign the lease, the apartment manager tells you that you can use the security deposit in lieu of your last month’s rent. However, the written lease says nothing about this arrangement. In this case, insist that the lease be changed to reflect this agreement. If you do not, and you later get into a dispute about this provision, the written lease provision will probably determine the outcome.
Part 4: TYPES OF LEASES
Written Monthly Agreements
Written monthly agreements contain the amount of rent and any rules and regulations. This clarifies the rules by which a tenant must abide. It also helps to avoid disagreements and misunderstandings on landlord or tenant promises. The disadvantage is that the landlord can raise your rent, terminate your tenancy or change any of its terms with a written notice delivered to you at least 30 days before your next periodic rental date. The tenant can terminate this type of agreement the same way. Refer to Sample Letter #3, “Notice of Termination for a Month-to-Month Rental Agreement.”
Joint & Several Liability
Under most leases, roommates are jointly and severally liable for the lease. This means any one roommate can be held responsible for the actions of any or all other roommates. Any or all roommates can be sued for the damage done by one roommate. And all roommates can be evicted if one roommate fails to pay the rent. (YIKES!)
So, before you sign a lease, make sure potential roommates are responsible and able to pay their share of rent and other expenses. To protect themselves, roommates should make some sort of written contract between themselves to determine what will happen if one roommate decides to leave. For an example see the Roommate Contract
Roommates with separate leases have a relationship comparable to that of tenants who live in separate apartments in the same building, including higher rent. The landlord is directly responsible for resolving serious problems between roommates, either by working with them directly or serving an eviction notice to any roommate who violates the lease. Since everyone has a separate lease, other roommates don’t have to worry about being evicted along with the rotten apple, nor do they have to make up rent payments or fill that roommate’s place. Although the issue is between the tenant and the landlord, it’s still a good idea to document serious problems.
Your Lease SHOULD:
Your lease should NOT:
- state lease beginning and ending dates
- show amount and type of deposit (no more than 1-½ x the rent)
- list name of the owner
- list name of manager or person authorized to receive notices
- state the rules for behavior (may be on a separate document provided for you— remember, you can be evicted if you do not abide by the landlord’s rules)
- state who’s responsible for payment of utilities—you or the landlord?
- disagree with the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (see excerpt)
- contain any provision in which you agree to waive any right or remedy under the AZ Residential Act
** Take a copy of your lease to ASUA Legal Services and have it reviewed before you sign it.
Emergency & Safety Contacts
- The Tucson Police Department (TPD), 791-4444, will not tell you where you should live, but they will give out online crime stats by address, neighborhood, substation, and many other options.
- Find out how your complex can become part of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, partnering property owners, residents, and law enforcement to eliminate crime in multi-housing properties.
- The University of Arizona Police Department, UAPD, 621-4219, publishes Campus Crime stats, campus safety and security reports, and will even give presentations on various safety issues.
- ASUA Safe Ride provides free transportation in and around campus to promote campus safety. Call 520.621.7233 (SAFE) for pickup.
- Campus Health's Oasis Program for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, 626-2051, provides help to UA students, staff and faculty who are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.
Anyone, male or female, is a possible rape victim. In 50% of rapes, the victim and rapist were acquaintances or friends. Educate yourself in rape prevention tactics. Learn to recognize potentially dangerous situations, how to avoid them, and what to do when you cannot. Free classes are offered by the Tucson Police Department’s
Crime Prevention Unit (520.791.4450) and the Information Center (520.327.1171). Find more information in TPD’s Rape Avoidance & Personal Protection brochure. Remember: your personal safety depends on you!
SECURITY AT HOME
Apartment and Home Security Life in a house or apartment includes a personal responsibility for one’s own safety and well being. This includes everything from understanding the appliances and heating system and how to shut them off if they malfunction to locking your doors and windows. You are entitled to locks that work and need to contact your landlord immediately to repair broken locks.
There are other things you can do to protect yourself, your home, and your possessions. Make sure smoke detectors are properly installed and functioning at all times. If you have sliding doors or windows you might choose to have lengths of wood made to lay in the tracks of the door/window to keep them from being opened. There are other commercial devices to provide extra security or warnings if your home is being entered. Check with your landlord before doing anything that would be permanently installed in the house or apartment. Security of the apartment building you live in is only as effective as you make it. Don’t leave it all to the management and the police. By following these suggestions, you can make your building a safer place in which to live.
- Refer unknown or suspicious persons seeking entrance to the building to the management.
- Notify management when your apartment will be vacant – for holidays or otherwise.
- Make arrangements with a neighbor or the management to receive deliveries.
- DO NOT identify yourself on the mailbox as a woman living alone.
- Ask to install a wide-angle door viewer.
- Do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk by opening the door to strangers.
- Secure sliding balcony doors with a charlie bar or place a length of wood in the bottom track, making sure it fits snugly.
- When in the elevator, stand near the floor button panel. In a difficult situation, push as many buttons as possible, particularly the Emergency button.
- Do not enter an elevator if you are suspicious of the occupant(s); wait for the next one.
- Be alert to vehicles or persons following you into the garage or parking lot.
- Drive out of the area if you encounter suspicious circumstances and report them immediately to the management or the police.
- Lock your vehicle and remove high value items.
For more information about Tucson’s Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, contact the Tucson Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit at 520.791.4450. Or check out the website: www.cityoftucson.org/police
Make your home appear occupied at all times:
- Set at least one interior light on a timer to come on at night when you are not home.
- Never leave notes indicating that you are not home.
- Leave a radio or TV on while you are gone.
- Invest in dusk-to-dawn lights for the exterior.
- Stop mail and newspaper deliveries when you will be out of town.
- Never leave a message on your answering machine that you aren’t at home and never leave sexually suggestive messages.
- Always use the peephole when answering the door.
- Never open your door to anyone until the person has identified him or herself: If it is a repairman, call the company to verify his position before opening the door. Never leave the repairman alone, even for a few minutes.
- Do not let strangers into your house to use the phone. Make the call for them.
- Do not place hidden keys outside your door (burglars know ALL the hiding places).
- Do not attach name or driver’s license to a key chain.
- Be careful who you lend or give your keys to.
- Remember to lock up every time you leave your home.
- Do not panic if your apartment has been entered! Leave right away in case the intruder is still inside, and call the police and property owner. Do not touch or move anything until the police have arrived.
Too often, the last line in a newspaper story about an apartment fire reads, “The smoke detector did not sound to warn residents of the fire.” It is a fact: smoke detectors do not always save lives. If the battery is removed, worn out, or if a unit is faulty, a detector is useless as fire protection. That is why renters and landlords must be aware of the status of smoke detectors. Replace batteries when they are worn and monitor units for defects.
Legally, landlords have to provide a fire protection system (which could be battery operated units or hard-wired systems) and have it in working order when you move in. Once you take possession of the unit, it is really the responsibility of the renter to report malfunctions of the fire protection system to the landlord as soon as possible.
As a renter, you should check your systems monthly. If your unit uses batteries, push the test button to insure it is in working order. If you have the hard-wired type, be sure to remove dust periodically, because this blocks the ability of the system to detect smoke.
Stop by the OCH office to obtain the Home Security Tips pamphlet published by the Tucson Police Department. The TPD’s Crime Prevention Unit will also come to your home or apartment and perform a security check at no cost to you. To set up an appointment, call 520.791.4450.
SAFETY ON CAMPUS
Your safety and security on and off campus is a priority. Many campus systems are already in place to make the UA a safe place for ALL students:
University Police Department (UAPD)
: Approximately 50 professionals patrol the campus in cars, on bicycles and on foot. Two other levels of security personnel augment these professionals: unarmed campus security officers and community service officers. 9-1-1 or (for non-emergency), 520.621.UAPD. www.uapd.arizona.edu
ASUA Safe Ride
: An escort service organized by ASUA operates in and around campus on Sunday through Thursday, 520.621.7233 (SAFE) for the student escort service. saferide.asua.arizona.edu
Blue Light Emergency Telephones
are located at many locations across the campus and on all levels in parking structures. Police emergency response time on campus is approximately three minutes.
It is a misconception to believe hazing only occurs within our social Greek fraternities and sororities. Hazing occurs in class honoraries, in athletic and sports clubs and many smaller clubs on campus. Hazing is not always physical; it is often verbal and equally harmful. Students can anonymously report incidents to the hazing hotline (626 HAZE).
Self defense classes
are offered by the Student Recreation Center and by the University Police. Classes stress environmental awareness, escape and evasion training.
The UA Oasis Center
for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence: Offers information and referrals for those who wish to access security resources. The Oasis Center stands as a resource for the crime victim, male or female. Reach Oasis at 520.621.2051, or oasis.web.arizona.edu.
Campus Crime Statistics:
The University believes a community that is well informed about the nature of its crimes is a safety conscious public. Not only is it your right to know campus crime statistics, it is to your advantage to act on it by developing personal routines that enhance your own safety and becoming actively involved in the reporting of crimes and suspicious/unusual activities. For current statistics, go to the UAPD website at: www.uapd.arizona.edu
Campus Crime Protocol:
Finally, you need to know that a community wide protocol is established for you, should you become a crime victim. As a victim, on or off campus, you are entitled to medical, psychological, legal and administrative support from The University of Arizona.