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Navigating Your Lease: What You Need to Know

Ready to take the plunge and sign the Lease on your apartment? There are a few key things to know before you get your pen out. Going in armed with the right knowledge can ensure that you get exactly what you want and what to watch out for.

Types of Leases

When you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, you will most likely be presented with one of three different types of leases:

Month-to-Month Leases
These rental agreements usually do not contain a specific time limit, and your tenancy continues until either you or your landlord issues a Notice to Vacate. The notice must be given the time frame set out in the lease, such as 30 or 60 days in many cases.

One-Way Lease
A one-way lease is unusual but can be something you might run into occasionally. There are certain areas of the country where they are actually illegal, so you will want to check before you sign if you are offered one. This particular lease is like a month-to-month lease, but the landlord will charge a termination fee or waive a deposit if the tenant moves out before a certain number of months is up.

Fixed Term Lease
A fixed-term lease is the most common kind of lease you will probably see. This is a rental agreement that sets a specific period of time, such as a year or a number of months. These leases restrict the landlord from increasing the rent or changing any rules during the tenancy agreement and also sets out a set of conditions for you, the renter, such as rent payment dates, what’s allowed and more.

Important Parts of Your Lease to Check

Signing a lease can feel intimidating, particularly if you are a new renter. Before you sign, make sure you look things over carefully so no surprises come your way down the road. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, you’re making an agreement that you will have to adhere to for the term of the lease.

  • Check for Accuracy
    When you’re signing your lease, checking (and double-checking!) is important. Make sure you check the accuracy of your name, the apartment address, the price of rent, fees and utilities that you are responsible for, smoking policy and more. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t see something you are concerned about.
  • Be Aware of Charges and Penalties
    Your lease should also outline any particular additional charges or penalties you might incur during your lease period. Charges for late payment of rent, pet rent, cleaning fees at the end of your lease, or penalties for disruptive behavior or damage are all common items that are covered by a lease.
  • Understand the Escape Clause
    Life happens, which means a new opportunity could take you to a new city before your lease is up. Many properties require a 30 to 60-day notice if you decide to break your lease along with a hefty penalty fee (often two to three month’s rent), as well as forfeiting your security deposit.
  • Know the Rules on Subletting, Guests and Airbnb
    Subletting can make living arrangements more flexible, especially for college students. If you think you’ll need to sublet at any point during your leasing agreement, check the property management’s subletting policy for what you can or can’t do. Additionally, many apartments these days have strict policies on how long you can allow guests to stay and whether or not you’re allowed to list your apartment on Airbnb. It’s important to understand these conditions and not work around your landlord with them, as breaking the rules can carry stiff penalties and possible eviction.
  • Find Out About Your Furry Friends
    Have a pet or thinking of getting one after you move in? Every apartment usually has a pet policy, including fees, pet rent and information about cleaning and maintenance. Ask if there are any restrictions on banned breeds of dogs or cats, weight restrictions or species restrictions. You may be pretty excited about bringing your boa constrictor to your new home, but your landlord may not be crazy about the idea. When in doubt, ask about the specifics.
  • Secure Your Deposit
    More likely than not, you’ve had to pay a security deposit when renting. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions surrounding it — including if it’s refundable and what is needed to get it back (in full or in part) if you move out in the future. After the lease has been signed, be sure to obtain a copy for personal records to avoid any confusion on your part or your landlord’s.
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Navigating Your Lease: What You Need to Know


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