Starting your off campus housing search can be a daunting task, but have no fear!  Off-Campus Life is here to help you get through it all. This "Beginning Search" section provides information to help you learn about how to decide if you should live off-campus and where to start in looking for off-campus housing. Be prepared to be persuaded, starting as early as the first couple of weeks of the fall semester, that you should find housing and sign a lease by October in order to have a place to live in Harrisonburg next year.  DON'T FALL FOR THIS MYTH!  There is NO Housing Shortage in Harrisonburg, thus you have plenty of time you make your decision. There is no need to sign a lease in a hurry. Remember a lease is a legal binding contract between you and the landlord, and signing one prematurely can cause all sorts of consequences, including some extensive financial ones. First and foremost, do not rush into making the housing decision: -Start comparison shopping during the fall semester prior to the year you will start living off-campus.  You can start this process at the Off-Campus Life Fall Housing Fair where most off-campus properties come to JMU to advertise what they have to offer in housing, including leasing specials, etc. -Talk with OCL staff, parents, landlords, and potential roommates.  It's a big decision in if and where to live off-campus, and one that can be helpful if you have advice.

Living on-campus an extra year could benefit you!

The Offices of Residence Life (ORL) and Off Campus Life (OCL) encourage students to live on campus for at least two years. Research shows that students who do so are more likely to graduate, are more satisfied with their college experience and are more involved with campus activities. Take the time to think about the positives of living on campus.

Listed below are some of the positives of living on campus:

  • No commute (Close to classes)
  • Quiet Environment
  • Fun Community programs in the Residence Halls
  • Save Money (Limited grocery purchases, paying rent/utilities, etc.)
  • Campus Events (Movies at Grafton, Funny Freaking Fridays, Late Night Breakfasts, etc.)
  • Can walk to Downtown Harrisonburg
  • May not have to worry about parking (Unless you choose to bring a car)
  • Involvement in campus clubs and organizations

Housing Information

House Hunters

Off-Campus Life is here to help you figure out which off-campus housing location best suits what you are needing and wanting in an apartment. This might include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you are looking for in the apartment, the proximity to campus, whether or not utilities are included, and amenities offered such as a gym, pool, or pet friendly policies. If you don’t even know where to start in figuring out what you want and need in an apartment, you can follow this link to our Living Priorities Rubric which helps you identify some important things you are looking for. You can also come to our office or contact us by phone, email, or through this website for help figuring out your living needs and preferences.

Once you know a little bit about what you are looking for, you can also contact our office by phone, email, or in person and get information on housing in the area that meets these needs, schedule tours to visit your top three off-campus living options, and get help in knowing things to be looking for and questions to be asking as you identify where you want to live. For a House Hunters Tour, which we provide at various times Monday- Friday, you can complete this form and someone from our office will contact you in 1-2 business days to schedule.

Housing Guide

Off-Campus Life’s Housing Guide 2015-2016 is a listing of various off-campus housing locations in the community and information about what each has to offer in housing. It lists: various property management companies in the area and their contacts to find out more information about housing they have to offer that may not be included in the guide, the different properties in the area that offer student housing, contact names, addresses, and phone numbers to reach out to locations about more information, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that apartments at the location offer, and the amenities that each complex provides.  It also provides a map to show you where all of the apartment complexes that advertise with us are located!

Listings Website

Interested in seeing prices, what units are available, or if somebody is looking for a roommate?  Visit the Listings website for this information and more!

Roommate Priorities Rubric

The Roommate Priorities Rubric (PDF) is a document that can be used to compare with other students to find a good match for a potential roommate.  The document outlines specific attributes and habits that students will run into when moving off campus.

Complaint Log

Curious about others’ experiences off campus? Feel free to stop by the OCL office and view our Complaint Log.


Leasing Info

When you sign a lease, you are entering into a legal contract, so make sure you read the document and know what you are signing.

An individual lease is when you sign for a single room, meaning you are individually responsible for paying rent and any damages to that room.  However, this also means that the landlord can place any person in the remaining rooms in the unit without your consent.

A group lease is a lease signed by all occupants, making the entire group responsible for damages and paying the full rent.   This places the choice of filling empty rooms on the group.

Always ask questions and make sure you fully understand the entire document.  Off-Campus Life is more than willing to go over any leases with students and help them to better understand what they are signing.

Leaving half-way through the semester and need to find a person to take over your lease?   Learn more about subleasing.

Deposits – What to Expect

All apartment complexes require a security deposit, which in most cases is equal to one month’s rent.  This deposit covers expenses on the complex’s end when repairs must be made in the apartment.  OCL provides a “damage checklist” which you can take into your apartment when moving in to write down any current damages.  This will ensure that you are not charged for damages that were not caused by you, and you get your full deposit back.

Tips for Choosing a Roommate

When looking for a roommate it is important to look at how compatible you are with each person in your day to day routines.  This includes: cleanliness,  eating habits, social habits, sleep/study patterns, etc.  Just because you are good friends with a person does not necessarily mean you would be compatible roommates!  OCL provides different resources to aid in your roommate search including our Roommate Mixer and our Roommate Rubric.  We encourage you to use these resources and find the most compatible roommate for you.


Whether you are looking for an apartment, signing a lease, already moved in, or on your way out safety is a major concern!  Below is a list of tips on how to make your apartment a safe environment so that you can enjoy your time living Off Campus to its fullest!



  • JMU has created a Safety Task Force to analyze possible solutions and changes to be made to keep the community safe.
  • Public Safety has 4 officers assigned to off campus patrols, not including the 25 officers assigned to on campus patrol.
  • Safety escorts are available to any student on campus, free of charge.  Escorts are provided by carefully screened and trained student employees known as the Campus Police Cadets. Cadets are on duty 7pm – 2am Sunday-Wednesday, 9pm-2am Thursday, and 9pm-3am Friday and Saturday.  Police officers will provide any escorts outside of those time periods.
  • JMU SafeRides is a student run, non-profit organization whose mission is to create a safer community for the city of Harrisonburg. Members work to prevent drunk driving by educating JMU students, fundraising to help support our mission, and providing free rides home for JMU students. If you are a JMU student and need a ride home over the weekend, please feel free to call us at 540.JMU.RIDE (540.568.7433)! No matter where you are in Harrisonburg, we are here for you!
  • Public Safety offers educational crime prevention opportunities throughout the year.
  • Timely Notifications are issued by the James Madison University Police, giving notice of acts that could pose as a Possible Threat, that reportedly occurred on or near the campus of James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Until the investigation of the specific act has been concluded, it can be assumed that conditions continue to exist that may pose a threat to members and guests of the community. It is the duty of the institution to warn of possible “dangerous conditions” on its property; an “affirmative duty” exists to warn of possible peril at the hands of some third party.



Secure your property

  • Utilize door locks whenever possible.  If you have lost a key, please contact your property manager to receive a replacement.
  • Close and lock all windows and sliding glass doors.  Place wooden dowel in sliding glass door track.  (You can purchase wooden dowels at a local hardware store.)
  • Utilize blinds and shades, especially at night.
  • Place all valuables out of site when parking your vehicle. Secure them in the trunk and lock your doors.  Try to leave vehicle parked under a light.
  • Call the police, if uninvited guests won’t leave.


Host a safe party

  • Report suspicious people or activity immediately to the police. Be a witness, don’t be a hero.
  • Register your party with the Harrisonburg Police Department – 540.434.4436.  Instead of sending an officer out for the first noise complaint, HPD will call the host to correct the problem.
  • Have a guest list – know who is in your home.
  • Call the police, if uninvited guests won’t leave.
  • Have a sober host on the premises at all times.
  • Keep it small. Be aware occupancy limits. Beware of overcrowding wooden decks.
  • Lock doors to private areas (i.e. bedrooms) and secure or hide valuables.
  • Limit the alcohol consumption of guests.
  • Provide non-alcoholic beverages and food.


When attending a party

    • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, leave the area.
    • Report suspicious people or activity immediately to the police. Be a witness, don’t be a hero.
    • Stay with friends. Look out for each other.
    • Know the hosts of the party you are attending.
    • Drink responsibly.  Do not drink to excess.
    • Secure a safe way to get home, such as a bus, taxi or JMU SafeRides (540.568.7433).
    • Carry only the ID and money you’ll need for the night.
    • Be considerate of others and respectful of property.

Traveling by foot

      • Use well lit and well-traveled areas: Avoid dark and deserted areas, such as railroad tracks, or shortcuts.
      • Do not walk or jog alone.
      • Utilize the sidewalk at all times.  If there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the roadway, always walk facing traffic.
      • Do not approach an unknown car if it follows your, or the driver beckons you while you are walking. Instead, turn and quickly walk the opposite direction.
      • Do not resist or attempt to fool a robber.

Other tips

      • Do not make it easy for thieves. They are on the lookout for items left unattended. It takes only seconds to grab your property and get away.
      • Use common sense.  Trust your instincts and listen to that gut feeling.
      • Report all crimes: When reporting a crime or suspicious activity, give the dispatcher all the information you have. If the crime is occurring during your call, stay on the line until the officer arrives.


Report Suspicious Activity Immediately

      • Look out for your neighbors and call the local police immediately if you observe suspicious activity.

JMU Police 540.568.6913

Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Police (Emergency Communications Center)   540.434.4436

Call 911 for EMERGENCIES!


For additional public safety information visit JMU Public Safety’s Website.

To see a comprehensive list of JMU Timely Notifications visit Public Safety’s Incident Listing page.

To see reports on criminal activity throughout Harrisonburg visit the Crime Reports website.

Follow us on Facebook at JMU Off Campus Life for more tips.

Beginning Your Search

Starting your off-campus housing search can be a daunting task, but have no fear!  Off-Campus Life is here to provide support and help through each step of this search process.

This section provides information to help you learn about the benefits and disadvantages to living off-campus, make a decision as to whether or not off-campus living in right for you, and how to begin the process of finding housing.  We have information about what to expect in beginning this search, including things to be looking for in housing, what to know about lease signing, and finding compatible roommates.

Looking for a Job?

Living off-campus may require you to work to help pay for expenses like transportation, food, and utilities. Working while in school can also help in learning time management skills and in building skills and experience to add to a resume.

As a student, you have options of working on or off-campus.
For on-campus job opportunities, go to JMU Joblink or to Dining Service’s Website to search for any available positions.

You can also visit JMU’s Off-Campus Job Announcements page which provides information on known off-campus work opportunities.

Additional questions regarding student job opportunities can be addressed by visiting the Student Work Experience Center on the 5th Floor of the Student Success Center or checking out their website.

Affording Off-Campus Living

Making the decision to live off-campus, and are not sure how to make it work financially? Check out JMU Financial Aid’s website for information and contact numbers to discuss options and if current loans or scholarships can be used to cover off-campus living costs.

In addition to resources provided by the Financial Aid Office, Off-Campus Life hosts monthly budget workshops to help students learn ways to create a basic budget, save, and pay back debt.  Check student emails for information on dates and times of these “Mo’ Money, Less Problems” Budget Workshops!

Short Term Leases/Subleasing

Thinking about studying abroad?  Graduating in December?  Might transfer to a different school?  If these apply to you, then signing a 12 month lease is NOT your best option, nor something that Off-Campus Life recommends.  Search for a sublet, month-to-month lease, or a six month lease to ensure that you are not locked into a 12 month contract, as there is no guarantee you will be able to find someone to take over your lease for the time you will not be living in Harrisonburg!

Off-Campus Life is more than willing to help you in your search for one of these options.  Contact our office and we will provide you with a list of sublets, as well as information on which complexes and units in the area offer short term leases.