The most common rental arrangements are by lease (usually 1 year) or month-to-month, and a written rental agreement is fairly standard (and advisable). Read it before you sign it; many terms may be negotiable. Basic legal facts of property rental in California are available in a booklet entitled, "What Should I Know Before I Rent?" published by the State Bar of California (See ADDITIONAL RESOURCES chapter).
In general, San Francisco housing costs fluctuate depending on the current economy and are rather high. An older, two bedroom flat or apartment within two miles of the UCSF Parnassus campus will cost approximately $2500-$3000+/month; one bedroom apartments may be available for $2000+/month. Prices will vary greatly depending on location and condition. You may be able to find an inexpensive room for rent in a private house or with roommates for $1000.
Some people choose to live in Marin County or the East Bay. The advantages, in some cases, are lower rent and newer, quieter neighborhoods. The disadvantages are a potentially longer commute. See the TRANSPORTATION chapter for commuter services to the UCSF campuses.
When renting, expect to pay first and last months' rent plus a security deposit. The security deposit may be as much as rent, and must be refunded with interest when you depart (less costs of damage you may cause).
Get "hooked" up. Before signing your lease or agreement, you should know what, if any, utilities are included in each month's rent. Basic expenses for living in your apartment are water, electricity, heat (two most common types being gas or electric) and any other luxury like cable and Internet. Although your bill may vary depending upon where you live, it is best to do some research beforehand. See what the typical cost is per person per month. Contact your cable/Internet provider to see if there is a package deal that is cheaper than purchasing each service separately. If you have a cell phone, you may decide to skip the landline altogether.
To acquire a telephone line for your home, 1-800-288-2020 will connect you with AT&T, a leading home telephone service provider. There are other providers as well, but AT&T provides a relatively simple plan that is easy to set up.
The cost per month is approximately $35, depending on what services you would like to purchase (flat rate, measured rate, call waiting, caller I.D., etc). Please check AT&T’s website for a description of these services.
You will also need to pay a fee of approximately $35 to start the service, and will need to purchase your own telephone. Telephones can be purchased at major department stores or electronics stores around the city.
If you do not have a driver's license, a state-issued ID card, or social security number, you will be asked to fax them a copy of your passport or birth certificate for identity verification.
Do not make long distance phone calls from your home telephone unless you have a long distance carrier. They will be extremely expensive. Instead, you can use international calling cards or you can purchase a long distance plan for your residential phones from a long distance carrier such as 10 + 10 numbers, GE Residential, AT&T, or others.
To purchase a cellular phone, you will find good plans with T-Mobile, AT&T, Nextel, Verizon, and Sprint. Although most plans require you to have a social security number, some will allow you to lease a phone for short-term use or pay a large deposit (as much as $500) for long-term use. T-Mobile and Metro PCS also offer pre-paid phones that do not require you to have a social security card or credit history, but the plans are more restrictive and may cost a bit more. When you set-up your account, ask the cell phone representative if they offer corporate discounts to UCSF employees. Some companies will offer one.