Starting your off campus housing search can be a daunting task, but have no fear; we’re here to help you get through it all. This section provides information to help you learn about the ins and outs of living off campus. We have information about what to expect when signing a lease, choosing a roommate, security deposits, and staying safe. When to begin: 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.

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 complex best suits the priorities you are looking for in an apartment.  Contact our office by phone, email, in person, or by this form and let us know what sorts of things you are looking for in an apartment.  Our office will then put together a list of complexes geared towards your criteria, schedule tours for the places you want to visit, and drive you there to help you figure out what is best for you! We do ask that you plan to tour between the hours of 9AM-5PM. Tours generally take 2-4 hours. Also, please allow for 2-3 business days to process a tour request.

Housing Guide

Off Campus Life’s Housing Guide is a listing of the numerous apartment complexes around the Harrisonburg area.  It lists: the different properties, who owns each complex, contact numbers, the number of bedroom and bathrooms, 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!

Living Priorities Rubric

The Updated Living Priorities Rubric (PDF)  is a document to aid students in prioritizing the attributes they are searching for in an apartment or house.  It can be used to outline what the individual student is looking for, as well as create a base for comparison with possible roommates.

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.

JMU Life

The JMU Life program is catered towards educating students on the steps they will take when moving off campus.  This program is made available to students in their residence hall, making it easily accessible to those who are looking for more information.  It is a fun and different way of getting on the right track while making the big decision to move off campus, and there are always lots of prizes to win at the end!

Safety

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’s EFFORTS TO KEEP YOU SAFE:

  • 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.
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:

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.

Looking for a Job?

As a student, you have the option of working either on, or off campus. Having a job while in school can help a lot with time-management, as well as get you ready for life after college!

For on-campus job opportunities, go to JMU Joblink or to Dining Service's Website to see if there are any available positions. On-campus jobs can be great, because they typically will work around your schedule, and you will be close to your classes!

For off-campus job opportunities, go to JMU's Off-Campus Job Announcements page. You can also always scour the area for an open position. There are a lot of restaurants and stores here in Harrisonburg that would definitely hire you!

Financial Aid

Making the decision to live off campus, and are not sure how to make it work financially? Check out JMU Financial Aid's website to see if there is a good option for you!

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.  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! 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.