Lease agreements are widely used, as 43 million households rent and 37 percent reside in apartments in the U.S. Signing an apartment lease means you're agreeing to certain terms for renting a place, including the length of your lease and the amount of rent.
There are also rules for the apartment complex, duplex or house that you need to follow, such as where to throw the trash, the fee for parking (if any) and quiet hours. Understanding your lease helps you better prepare for what to expect when you move in.
Just like anything else you put your signature to, a lease is a contract. It will name the people who have entered into the contract and are legally bound by it.
Anyone whose name doesn't appear on the document isn't legally liable for rent. For instance, if you take on a new roommate after the lease has been signed, you may want to ask the landlord to issue a new one. If not, you're legally the person who's liable if they don't pay their share of the rent.
Your lease will have your personal information, including:
It will also include penalties and fees:
Some contracts may specify how far in advance you need to notify the landlord regarding lease renewal. Some will default to a month-to-month agreement after the original term runs out. Other times, the lease may just include an automatic renewal clause in which the lease is renewed unless you give notice by a certain date.
You'll want to know this in advance because it helps you act in a timely fashion and hopefully encounter fewer problems.
Every apartment building and rental unit may have different policies for how much of a deposit is required. A common deposit may include one month's worth of rent, along with a pet deposit (if you have any).
You may receive all of your deposit back, depending on your landlord. If you caused damage to the apartment, your landlord may deduct a portion of it before returning the rest to you after you move out.
If your apartment comes furnished, you may want to find out what the rules are.
The lease may include a list of what's included and what the rules are if the items are damaged. These may include things like appliances and furniture.
Damage to anything provided by the landlord would likely be taken out of your security deposit, so having them all listed is important.
Your lease should indicate who is responsible for repairs in the apartment.
Landlords may require you to be responsible for minor repairs, while they'll repair major ones (clogged pipes, water leak). Or, if you live in a building managed by a property company, they may repair everything, including minor ones.
Typically, you'll be responsible for paying for your own utilities while the landlord pays for water and trash.
However, certain buildings may offer certain move-in specials that may include utilities with the monthly rent. Make sure you know who's responsible for paying for things like electricity, Wi-Fi and water.
Apartment leases are all different, so checking the details or including a few provisions with your landlord's approval may help you better understand what to expect when you live there.
Here are other details to consider:
Pro tip: If you really want a change to the apartment, you might be able to negotiate this ahead of time. Make sure that any repairs or modifications you agree on verbally are written down in the lease.
Take the time to read your lease thoroughly and carefully — once you sign, the terms are legally binding.
If you don't understand a clause, ask for clarification. If you want to make or request changes to the lease, both you and your landlord should initial them.
Save a copy of the final lease signed by you and the owner or manager. This is the most important document to help you if there's any disagreement about the apartment or anything related to your tenancy.