A lease is a written agreement between you and your
landlord. Once signed, a lease is a binding contract.
In general, a lease will cover the following areas:
Term – Most leases are for
a one-year term. Unless stated otherwise
in the lease, most
contain a clause allowing the lease to
continue on a month-to-month basis. A month-to-month
is an agreement for a one-month time period
that is renewed automatically each month
month until terminated by either side.
Common practice is for a written lease
to require 30-day
notice. A tenant must give written notice
of intent to terminate by mailing or hand
a copy to the landlord.
Rent – This is the amount
you and your landlord will have agreed
to. The rent
amount should be stated in writing in a
Deposit Amount – A security
deposit is almost always required to offset
of repairing any property damage caused
by you during the lease. Find out what
the deposit covers
and the conditions for a refund. You should
inspect the property with the landlord
and note any damages
in writing and/or take photographs. Many
states require landlords to deposit your
into a separate, interest bearing account
and pay you the interest it earns while
you are living
in the rental.
Utilities/Services – This
section states which utilities the Landlord
will be responsible for and which utilities
Rules and Special Clauses – Many
rental communities have a set of guidelines
which helps the tenants co-habit peacefully
These may be included in a lease.
Word on Rent Control
Many cities have legislation on rent control.
Rent control is a legal term that describes when
county, state or country imposes restrictions on
property owners that regulate or prohibit rent
rent control laws allow for regulated rent increases.
Get familiar with your city’s legislation on
rent control and how it can affect you. Mostly, it
will depend on what kind of rent control applies
in you area. Generally, there are two types of rent
Control - "Rent control" itself
limits the amount of rent that can be charged
to an individual by setting the amount
by which rent can increase annually. Usually
is a set percentage of a price index. If
a tenant moves, the rent can be increased,
but the price
can increase annually only as much as the
set percentage allows.
Rent Control - Under "strict rent control," landlords
cannot raise the amount of rent even when
the property is vacant.
control also means that property managers and owners
must provide tenants with just cause notice when
serving a tenant with an eviction notice.
A lease can contain several types of different information.
The most important thing to remember is that you should
carefully read and understand your lease. If you have
trouble understanding sections of the lease, ask someone
you trust for help. Leases are not just formalities
and, once signed by both parties, are fully enforceable
whether or not you have read it. Most landlords use
standard leases, but you can and may negotiate changes
to clauses that you find unreasonable. To do this,
cross out or amend the clause and both parties must
initial the corrections on both your and your landlord's
Keep in mind, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal
for anyone to be denied housing on the basis of color,
sex, religion, or national origin. The local county
government regulates tenant-landlord relations. For
additional information, check the government section
of your phone book under "Housing".
Understanding Your Lease
Before you sign anything, make sure you have read
and re-read your lease. Make sure you understand
of the lease. If you have any questions, don’t
be afraid to ask! Here is some more advice to follow
for a smooth lease process:
review all the important conditions of the tenancy
before you sign on the dotted line. Your lease
or rental agreement may contain a provision that
you find unacceptable -- for example, restrictions
on guests, pets, design alterations or running
a home business.
everything in writing. This will avoid misunderstandings
and disputes. Keep copies of any correspondence
and follow up an oral agreement with a letter,
setting out your understanding.
your privacy rights. A common conflict between
landlords and tenants is confusion over a landlord's
right to enter a rental unit and a tenant's right
to be left alone. If you understand your privacy
rights (for example, the amount of notice your
landlord must provide before entering), it will
be easier to protect them.
your rights to live in a habitable rental unit
-- and don't give them up. The vast majority of
landlords are required to offer their tenants livable
premises, including adequate weatherproofing; heat,
water and electricity; and clean, sanitary and
structurally safe premises. If your rental unit
is not kept in good repair, you have a number of
options, ranging from withholding a portion of
the rent, to paying for repairs and deducting the
cost from your rent, to calling the building inspector
(who may order the landlord to make repairs), to
moving out without liability for your future rent.
communication open with your landlord. If there's
a problem -- for example, if the landlord is slow
to make repairs -- talk it over to see if the issue
can be resolved short of a nasty legal battle.
renters' insurance to cover your valuables. Your
landlord's insurance policy will not cover your
losses. Renters' insurance typically costs $350
a year for a $50,000 policy that covers loss due
to theft or damage caused by other people or natural
disasters. It also covers you if you're sued by
someone who claims to have been injured in your
rental due to your carelessness.
sure the security deposit refund procedures are
spelled out in your lease or rental agreement.
To protect yourself and avoid any misunderstandings,
make sure your lease or rental agreement is clear
on the use and refund of security deposits, including
whether your building and neighborhood are safe,
and what you can expect your landlord to do about
it if they aren't. Get copies of any state or local
laws that require safety devices such as deadbolts
and window locks, check out the property's vulnerability
to intrusion by a criminal and learn whether criminal
incidents have already occurred on the property
or nearby. If a crime is highly likely, your landlord
may be obligated to take some steps to protect
to see how much advance notice you must give before
moving at the end of your lease term. A 30-day
written notice is normal when rent is paid monthly.
when to fight an eviction notice -- and when to
move. Unless you have the law and provable facts
on your side, fighting an eviction notice is usually
short-sighted. If you lose an eviction lawsuit,
you may end up hundreds (even thousands) of dollars
in debt, which will damage your credit rating and
ability to easily rent from future landlords.
all means SAVE A COPY OF THE FINAL LEASE signed
by you and the owner or manager. This is the most
important document when it comes to settling an
apartment disagreement. You should also keep a
copy of the
apartment/rental housing rules (sometimes called "community
policies") for the same purpose. It's amazing
how many people will sign documents without actually
understanding or even reading them. Maybe the contract
looked too long, or perhaps the language seemed
confusing. It's okay. The time you spend completely
this contract will only benefit your position as