What to Look for in Housing

There are some important points to keep in mind while looking for housing in Milwaukee. We have included a map of the UWM area with each recommended neighborhood outlined. Each neighborhood is explained below.

Neighborhood Key:

Yellow (Center square): UWM Campus

Red (West block): Riverwest

Green (South block): Upper East Side

Blue (North block): Shorewood

There are three major neighborhoods surrounding the UWM campus that the Neighborhood Housing Office recommends living in. These neighborhoods start at less than a mile (1.6km) from campus and extend out about 2.5 miles (4km). The rentals available on our listing service are generally in these areas.

Shorewood: This area is outlined in blue on the map above. Many available rentals in the Shorewood area or located about a mile (1.6km) from the UWM campus. It is a residential area with mostly long term residents and families.

Upper East Side: This area is outlined in green on the map. This area is also residential with many families and long-term residents, however it is also more heavily student populated. This is where a majority of students rent while going to school. This neighborhood is less than a mile (1.6km) from UWM’s campus.

Riverwest: This is the area outlined in red on the map. It is a residential, upcoming artist community located just west of the river. It ranges from about 1 mile (1.6km) to 2 miles (3.2km) from campus. These living options are usually a little less expensive as an upcoming community.


Safety: What may feel safe to one person may not feel safe to another. While looking at housing in the neighborhood, it is best to visit once during the day light and once at night. If you feel worried or unsafe during either of these visits, consider a different rental home or area. When viewing rental units, keep an eye out for basic safety features. Make sure there is outside lighting at night. Make sure there are working locks on the doors and all windows. If it is a first floor unit, check for extra security on the windows, such as bars. Feel free to ask the landlord any questions you may have about the unit, especially concerning safety.


Furnished and Unfurnished Units: While searching for an apartment, you may find a unit that is described as “furnished”. This means that the unit will already have furniture such as couches, tables, and chairs in the apartment upon move-in. “Unfurnished” apartments do not have furniture in the unit and the tenant has to provide their own. There are various options for finding low cost furnishing for your home. Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity: ReStore, and local rummage sales can be good sources for furnishing. Remember to ask the property management whether the unit you are interested in is furnished or unfurnished.

Renting Furniture: If you don’t want to purchase furniture, there are other options you can use to meet your furnishing needs. CORT offers various furniture rental option packages depending on the arrangement you are looking for. Visit CORT’s website to explore the packages available for rental.


Consider printing out this Questions to Ask Landlords sheet while looking for housing to help you keep track of different property’s features.

Also ask the landlord about what utilities and services are included in the lease.

Utilities include: water/sewer, electric, heat, and gas. There are also extra, optional utilities that are sometimes included with rental units. These would include cable and internet. The main services the landlord may include in the lease are snow removal and lawn care. Some landlords will provide equipment for cutting the grass or shoveling snow and expect the tenants to do the work, while other landlords will do all of the work for you. Clarify what is expected of you both in lawn care and utilities when going on showings for units.

Here is a short explanation of utilities in Milwaukee:

Water/sewer: This is billed quarterly, or every 4 months. The cost depends on how much water you use, but typically is around $60 per quarter according to the City of Milwaukee’s website. Most landlords who do not include water will receive the water bills and then charge the tenant that amount at each quarter or when the lease specifies.

Electric, gas, and heat: These are all billed monthly through WE Energies. If these are not included in your lease, you will need to register with WE Energies. The may ask for a Social Security Number, however your ITIN will work if they are able to identify you through that. If not, you will need to visit a physical WE Energies location to verify your identity and start your energy service.

Average Utility Costs: Similar to water bills, gas and electric utility bills are dependent on how much is used during the billing period. In Milwaukee, the average residential electric & gas bill is about $90. The winter season can contribute to a higher utility bill due to increased heat usage. If your apartment has an air conditioning unit, your bill may be higher as a result of increased A/C usage. If you are living with roommates, discuss splitting utility bill costs at the beginning your lease so you can have bill payments figured out before your first billing cycle. Be sure to review your lease to determine if any utilities are included in your monthly rent. Utilities that are included in rent are not paid by the tenant.

Also be sure to take pictures of unit while you’re looking. This will help you keep track of any damages and give you a reference to look back on later when deciding which rental property is best for you. We also recommend filling in a check-in sheet when moving in, and pictures can help you complete that as well.

We strongly recommend visiting a couple units at the very least before signing any leases. It is a good idea to visit at least 3 different properties.

You may also be required to fill out an application. This may require information that you are unable to provide as an international student. Ask the landlord if there is alternative information you can provide, such as a passport instead of a social security number or offer to pay double the security deposit in place of a credit check. You may also wish to reach out to the Neighborhood Housing Office or University Legal Clinic for help at this point or when signing the lease.

Once you have decided the best location and take care of the proper paperwork, you are ready to move in! Make sure you record any pre-existing damage and fill in a check-in sheet. This should be given to you by your landlord, but it is also available to pick up in the Neighborhood Housing Office. Fill this out carefully and make sure to take pictures – this will help you get your full security deposit back when you move out as long as you don’t cause any damage.