Understanding a Rental Lease Agreement

Make sure you understand what you’re signing.

You love it. You want it. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, but stop and take a deep breath first. This is everything you need to know before signing that rental lease agreement.

What is a rental lease agreement?

A rental lease agreement is a legal document that sets out the terms for you to rent a residence from a landlord, apartment community or property management company.

The agreement protects you and the prospective landlord. Both of you need to abide by the rental lease agreement’s terms.

It’s smart to get a second set of eyes on the lease before you sign it. Colleen Wightman, a licensed Realtor and a leasing specialist based in Rochester, NY says, “Have a licensed real estate agent or, better yet, an attorney look at the lease agreement. You are legally bound once you put your signature on it…Let the landlord or property manager know at the time of signing that you’ve had it reviewed by an attorney. That will make the landlord pay attention; you are someone who knows what you’re doing.”

Reviewing a lease.

What’s in this agreement?

The rental lease agreement starts off with the basics: your name, the date, the name of the person or entity who will be leasing the property to you and the property’s physical and address.

While each lease is different, they will all cover the following information:

  • Arrangement to lease: There’s an acknowledgment from both parties that you and the prospective landlord agree to the arrangement. The rental lease agreement will name the length of time, i.e., the number of months you will be renting for and when that begins and ends. This is either for a long-term or short-term duration.
  • Rent: It will state the rent amount, to whom you’ll pay the rent; how you’ll pay it (debit or credit card, some other electronic system, personal check) and when it’s due. The lease agreement will state the day rent is due each month and what happens if you fail to pay the rent — such as late charges.
  • Additional monies: This section would discuss situations in which you might pay extra money in addition to the monthly rent. “These would be things like a non-refundable pet deposit or perhaps an additional month’s rent in lieu of you having a perfect credit score,” said Wightman.
  • Property use: This part clarifies who will be living in this rental — you alone? with a roommate? spouse? pet? — and it states that the apartment is only for residential purposes with no illegal activities permitted.
  • Apartment possession: You are not liable for the rent if the landlord or management company doesn’t let you move in on the date promised. Your rent will then be pro-rated.
  • Security deposit: By signing the agreement you acknowledge that you will pay the landlord a specified amount of security deposit (usually equal to one month’s rent). This money will cover any property damages that you incur. The landlord must notify you in writing when and how much of the security deposit they keep. Keep in mind, the security deposit is different from “last month’s rent,” money you pay upfront to cover the final month you will live in the apartment. In some states, the security deposit pays for that final month. Check your state laws regarding the use of security deposits. Also, check your state’s laws regarding how your landlord holds your security deposit.
  • Addendums, provisions and disclosures, and amendments: This section lets you know that if you or the landlord/property management company want to modify this rental lease agreement in any way, it must be done in a written agreement signed by you (the tenant) and the landlord/property management company. What might you need to modify? Let’s say the apartment comes with one parking space, but you’ve got a motorcycle and a car and you want to park your motorcycle on the side of the building if that’s possible. “If you’re augmenting what’s offered — have it put into the lease because both parties have to agree to it,” shared Wightman.

Is the rental agreement lease term flexible?

Yes! You might sign a short- or long-term lease.

Leases come in all sorts of durations. Maybe you can sign a lease that’s longer than 12 months and can get a more favorable monthly rate. Or perhaps you need the apartment for less than 12 months. Maybe the landlord will agree to a six-month or even month-to-month lease, in which you actually rent one month at a time (this will likely be more expensive).

The bottom line is that anything like this needs discussing upfront, documented on the lease agreement and signed by both parties.

A couple reviewing a lease.

What if I need to break my lease agreement?

The short answer is, “Yes, you can…but.”

There will be information on your lease agreement about the rules on “early release” — likely resulting in penalties for breaking your lease. You may have to give a certain amount of notice if you choose to do this. You may have to find another renter to take your place. Or, you might have a buyout clause.

Check your lease agreement upfront so that you can prepare in case this happens. And, always be honest and open with your landlord. You don’t want to incur financial penalties or land in court.

What about working from home?

The coronavirus pandemic sent many of us into our bedrooms with our laptops. But if your rental contract says you’re only using your apartment for residential purposes, will you get in hot water for working from home? As long as you’re not inviting a third party into your home to conduct business, you’re all right.

Fair housing and discrimination

Before you sign the lease, make sure to read through the fair housing laws. It’s important to make sure that the person renting the apartment is in compliance with all fair housing laws.

Service animals can be a hot-button issue. Even if there’s a no-pet rule, Wightman says “As long as you have all your paperwork in order, a landlord cannot deny renting to you because you have a service animal.”

But make sure you get it into the lease that you have a service animal and that you’re in compliance with any and all appropriate paperwork you may need to provide. Also, it’s important to know that the landlord will likely ask for a non-refundable pet fee. It’s best to prepare for that miscellaneous cost.

Sign of the times

Read through any sort of documentation that you’re going to sign and be held accountable to. So often, people don’t think about “the legal ramifications of signing something they’re not thoroughly reading,” said Wightman.

You may feel the urgency from this rental market, but take the time to go through the rental lease agreement. “Being aware upfront and being thorough is always in the renter’s best interest,” Wightman shared.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

Apartment Lease Agreement Lingo 101

New renter reviewing their apartment lease agreement with pen in handTalk about nerve wracking! Applying for an apartment and reading over the lease or rental agreement can definitely bring beads of sweat to your forehead. Lease agreements are contracts that define tenant-landlord relationships and often use confusing “legalese.” Even the simplest apartment leases can use some pretty uncommon terms and phrases. Do you really know what everything means? It may be good to double check your lease know-how before signing on the dotted line. Here are some quick and easy definitions for common lease terms to help you understand what you’re signing.

The basic lingo: What you need to know to get started

Landlord/Owner: Pretty straight forward. This is the person you are renting the apartment from. The owner of the property.

Lease Term: This is the length of time that the leasing agreement is in effect. Usually one year, but some landlords will agree to a short-term lease for six months, three months, or even month-to-month. Read more about different types of lease terms.

Premise: The property being leased in the agreement. In other words, the apartment, condo, duplex, studio, or bedroom you’re looking to call home!

Tenant: That’s you! The future resident of the property being leased.

Lessee: You again! The person signing the lease as the tenant.

Leasor: The person renting the apartment to you. It’s probably the same as the landlord, but it could also be a property manager or someone else in charge of leasing the apartment to renters.

Eviction: Oooo, this is a scary word. This means that your landlord is kicking you out of the apartment or ending your lease before the lease term is up. Your landlord typically has to notify you in writing before evicting you, and often only under certain circumstances such as failure to pay rent. Find out what the eviction laws are in your state.

Default: This is a failure to meet the requirements of the lease. For example, you might be in “default” if you fail to pay rent or if you try to move before the lease term is up.

Liability: Legalese for “problem.” You might have seen it on signs in locker rooms, waiting rooms, and parking lots that say things like, “Management is not liable for lost, stolen, or damaged property.” Translation: If your stuff gets messed up or stolen, it’s not their problem.

Speak fluent legalese: Know that lease agreement like the back of your hand

Possession: The lawful occupation and use of land. As a tenant, paying rent gives you “possession” of the land but not “ownership” of it.

Quiet Enjoyment: Quiet enjoyment means that tenants in possession of a property have the right to privacy. In other words, the landlord can’t come barging in whenever they want to check up on you.

Abatement of Rent: This basically means you don’t have to pay rent under certain conditions that make the premise unlivable, like if the roof caves in or there’s a fire.

Base Rent: This tricky little term means that there are certain conditions under which your landlord could raise the rent within the lease term. Usually, landlords have to wait for the lease to end before raising the rent. Make sure you are clear on when and how your landlord might increase the cost of your rent.

Arrears: Sounds like “a rear.” If you get behind on the rent, this is legal term for all the back rent you owe.

Parties to a Lease: Nope, this isn’t referring to the next seriously awesome bash you’re throwing. This term refers to anyone who agrees to a lease. This includes you, the landlord, the property management, and any roommates also living with you.

Waiver: Agreeing to give up something that you are entitled to according to the law.

Severability: This means that if part of the contract you are signing (in this case the lease) is later found to be illegal or invalid, the rest of the contract is still binding. Essentially, any invalid parts can be cut out without affecting the rest of the contract.

And the hunt begins! Time to apartment search like a pro

Now that you know how to read common terms found in lease agreements, you’re ready to look for your next home on ApartmentSearch.com. Start searching, save your favorite properties, and find your next apartment on ApartmentSearch.com. You could receive up to $200 in rewards. Seriously!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Is the Grass Greener? Consider the 3 “M”s Before Moving Apartments

Woman sitting on floor of her apartment with laptop on stack of cardboard boxes, as she considers moving to a new apartmentLets face it. Right now, some of you despise the apartment you currently live in. In fact, you’re counting down the days until your lease term is up so you make your grand exit. Adding to your frustration, a brand new apartment community just opened up on the other side of town and they’re advertising one month of free rent. Not to mention, you have not had a response to the work order you submitted two days ago asking maintenance to fix the leaky faucet. All of these things add up to your much-celebrated exit from life at your current community. But wait — there might be more to the story than meets the eye. Is the grass going to be greener on the other side of town, or are you off to a new community with the same story as before? Consider these things before you start searching for your next apartment home.

MONEY is not everything but is usually one of the biggest (if not the most important) factors when choosing an apartment. But, just because an advertised rate seems cheaper doesn’t mean that it is. There may be some conditions to that rate. Many apartment communities are offering longer lease terms (15 – 24 months) that earn you price reductions. However, since there are more months involved, you may spend more money over the term of the lease than before. And what happens when the deal runs out? How much will rent be then? Also, some apartments are now also asking for residents to pay added amenity fees for things such a pet services or package receiving. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at the costs for your next apartment.

MOVING is pure joy and something we should all look forward to… said no one ever! Moving is a pain, even in the best of scenarios, and there is a lot to think about before you decide to move to your next apartment. The time it takes to move is one challenge. Also, there are the costs associated with moving. A moving truck, boxes, pads, fuel and even pizza and beer for your friends and family all cost money. And how much money is your time and effort worth on top of the hard costs of moving? Hiring movers might actually be a less expensive option. What about your stuff? Does it all fit in your new place or do you now need an assortment of new furniture and things? If you’re a fan of changing things up every year or even every few months, renting furniture from a company like CORT could be the solution to help you in the long term. All of these costs should be answered before you sign your lease cancelation.

MAINTENANCE issues can move just the same as you can. Further, just because a community is newer does not mean that you will have less maintenance challenges. So how do you know if you are in for better service or more of the same nonsense? Reviews are a great place to start. However, make sure to take the things you read with a grain of salt. Some people will just post a non-specific review out of frustration. Other places seem to have nothing but perfect reviews. Look for specific references to challenges being resolved. In addition, look to see if the community is engaged in a conversation with residents, or if it is just two sides yelling at each other. And, even if a community is too new for a significant indicator through reviews, you still have options. Wherever you consider your next apartment home to possibly be, make sure to meet with the maintenance team in advance. Get a feel for who they are and judge for yourself if they are the ones who will take care of your needs when it matters the most.

When the day comes, all of these things can help you make a better decision about when and where to move. When looking for your new apartment, look no further than ApartmentSearch.com. Our unmatched apartment database can help you find the best apartment options selected by the things that matter the most to you. Our free service will even put money in your pocket and reward you when you let your next community know that you found them using ApartmentSearch.com. And that is something that I always believe is a good idea.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com