Leasing Off-Campus

When living off-campus one of the most important relationships you can have is with your landlord. Avoid problems with your landlord by knowing landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, setting clear expectations for your relationship, and by timely and respectfully addressing issues that may occur.

Have a rental issue?

The City of Norfolk has partnered with ODU to provide assistance to students facing rental issues. Send an email to offcampuslife@odu.edu to be referred to a Landlord/Tenant Specialist, who may be able to assist you in resolving your issue.

Remember, there are certain things which your landlord is required by law to do and provide. While all of these provisions are outlined in the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, here are a few highlights about their rights and responsibilities:

  • Application Fee and Deposit. Any landlord may require an application fee and a separate deposit.

  • Insurance Requirements. A landlord may require as a condition of tenancy that a tenant have insurance coverage at a certain value.

  • Privacy. A landlord may not disclose or release any information about a tenant, prospective tenant, or a third party without tenant consent (unless a matter of public record).

  • Inspection of Premises. A landlord must submit a written report to the tenant within five days of occupancy itemizing existing damages at the time of occupancy.

  • Disclosure of Mold. A landlord must disclose to the tenant if there is any visible evidence of mold in the interior of the dwelling unit.

  • Maintain Fit Premises. There are many specific items that a landlord must maintain; such as adhere to building codes; keep the premises clean and habitable; maintain electrical, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, etc.; prevent moisture and mode; etc.

It is important to remember that while your landlord does have responsibilites, you as the tenant also have responsibilities and obligations, such as the following:

  • The Lease. Make sure that you thoroughly read the lease and have the landlord review it with you; it is important that you both have the same understanding the agreement.
  • Paying Your Rent. Landlords are permitted to charge late penalties immediately if a payment is not made on time and then refer your case to a lawyer as they move forward with eviction...it doesn't even matter if you are only five days late--late is late.

  • Take care of your property! You are responsible for ensuring the unit is is the same condition you received it. Make sure that any changes, such as painting walls, are approved by the landlord. Keep the outside of the property free of debris, including cups and trash.

  • Maintenance Repairs. You may not be responsible for general maintenance repairs; however, you are responsible for notifying your landlord of required maintenance. This is especially important if you suspect your property has mold. Don't ignore the problem and cause additional damage.

Take Pictures!

Don't forget to take pictures of the property before you move in and fill out an inspection form. This will help you if their is a dispute about whether you damaged the property.


  • Make sure that your renter's insurance is up to date and meets the requirements of the landlord (if applicable).

  • Ask for a copy of the lease to review. If you don't understand some of the terms of the lease, ask your landlord what they mean.

  • Call the power company to find out how much previous tenants typically spent on electricity.

  • Review the City of Norfolk Crime Map and check out the property during the day and nighttime. 

  • Test out your route to campus during high traffic times to make sure you are okay with the commute.

Important Questions to Ask

  • What are the dates of the lease (i.e. the date you can take occupancy and the date you need to move out)?
  • Is subleasing permitted? If so, what is that policy?
  • What utilities are included with my rent?
  • What if I need to break my lease; is there a provision for that?
  • When is rent due? What if I am a few days late on paying rent?
  • What is the community like?
  • Are there fire extinguishers provided in each apartment?
  • Are the buildings on a central fire alarm system or individual smoke detectors?
  • What types of security does the facility provide (i.e. security guards at night; gates to the community; dead bolt locks in the apartments, etc.)?