Close Menu

An International Student’s Guide to Renting in Madison

If you’re new to the country, let alone to Madison, you may not be familiar with the apartment renting process. Based on mistakes we’ve seen our international renters make in the past – including some involving legal issues – here are some tips for making the process easier. Providing this information is about more than making your apartment search easy. It’s also about understanding your rights and responsibilities. There’s the potential that even an honest mistake could land you in legal trouble. We don’t want it to get to that point. We’re going to run through some important guidelines to help make apartment renting in Madison a positive experience.

Know these General Tips Before Deciding Where to Rent

We’d like to begin with several general tips for renting your Madison apartment. These are things you should always think about before signing a lease.

If you want a more complete list of these general tips, check out this post. Having a grasp of the basics is the best place to start.

Know how to Identify Sneaky Landlords

Some landlords, knowing that this may be your first time renting an apartment in the U.S., may try to take advantage. While this post provides a more comprehensive list of warning signs of sneaky landlords, here’s a brief overview of how to evaluate them:


Once you find a place to live, consider the following before you move in: Purchase Renters Insurance If you cause significant accidental damage to your apartment or your belongings get ruined from flooding, fire or other causes, renter’s insurance can save you from paying tens of thousands of dollars to repair your place, or replace your things. Click here for a true story of why renter’s insurance is necessary. Renters insurance generally costs about $15 a month, and the money is well worth it in the event something goes wrong. Here are some of the ways renter’s insurance can protect you:

At Steve Brown Apartments, we require all of our residents to carry a renters insurance policy. We do this because when bad things happen – and there are inevitably one or two major problems a year – we don’t like to see our residents on the hook for huge losses or damage charges when a $15/mo. policy could have covered them. For more information on renter’s insurance and what it can do for you, check out this post. And here’s a tip for after you move out: Know How to Write a Letter for a Security Deposit Dispute A security deposit is a sum of money, usually equivalent to first month’s rent, that you pay when signing a lease. Your property owner holds onto this in case you damage your apartment. If you don’t cause any damage, the money will be returned to you within 30-days of the end of your lease date. (Make sure you give your property manager a forwarding address so they can send you this check). However, if a property owner withholds money for reasons you deem unwarranted, such as post move-out cleaning charges, you will need to write and send a letter stating why you believe you are entitled to have more or all of your security deposit returned. In this letter (it has to be a letter, NOT an email), be sure to include the following:

For a more complete description of how to craft a security deposit letter, please reference this post. Moving to a new country is a tough transition, and not understanding how to rent an apartment can make things even harder. Follow these tips to make the learning curve a little less steep. We hope you find a great apartment and enjoy living in Madison!

First time renters guide

Download our First Time Renters Guide

Everything you need to know when searching for your first apartment.

Get it now