Updated: Mar 8
If you are renting an apartment for the first time or perhaps you’ve made the decision to move to another state, you will be presented with an apartment lease when you secure your new space. Most lease agreements are straight forward while others include hidden clauses and complex terms. While a stressful part of your rental journey, it is a necessary one. Lease conditions can differ between states, in terms of their limitations and according to the type of apartment. Before you sign a lease agreement, we look at the best ways to protect yourself and to ensure the apartment lease you sign is fair, valuable, and makes your rental hassle-free.
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The Apartment Lease Defined
The lease is a signed contract between the renter and the landlord. It represents the terms and conditions of the agreement including a list of maintenance measures and services to be delivered for the duration of the tenancy. The lease will include the monthly rent, the length of the contract, and the date for scheduled payment.
What Does It Mean to Lease an Apartment?
The lease is a legal document between the landlord and the lessee or tenant. It will breakdown the terms of the rental including the deposit. Leases cover an average 12 months, but can be longer, and includes a monthly agreement.
What is the Difference Between Leasing and Renting an Apartment?
The major difference between leasing and renting an apartment is the duration. A lease can be issued for 12 months compared to a rental agreement that is valid for 30 days. For the duration of your lease or rental, your landlord cannot increase the rent unless there is a mutual agreement to do so.
Remember, you cannot simply withhold rent or dishonor the lease if you are unsatisfied with a service or your landlord has failed to provide maintenance. Follow the necessary legal procedure if your landlord or property manager is not fulfilling their side of the lease.
How Long is a Typical Apartment Lease?
The lease is typically signed for a 12-month term; however, it is a flexible contract and can cover an agreed-upon time period provided there is a mutual agreement. In negotiations with a landlord or property manager, a lease can include a 6-month term. Most landlords agree to a 6-month lease to determine the suitability of tenants before extending it for the remainder of the year.
To determine which agreement is best for your needs, discuss your options with your landlord or property manager, and determine the duration of your stay.
Can I Change My Mind on a Lease?
A lease generally covers a year. It is a contract that binds you to the terms, which means you are required to live in the apartment for that time. Should circumstances change and you have to move, you will still have to abide by the lease terms. In many instances, you may be required to cover the remainder of the rent. If you have 4 months on your lease at $500 per month, then your outstanding fee is $2000.
It is important to read your lease prior to signing. Here you should find the clause with the amount owed, should you break the lease. Depending on the landlord, a security deposit is also withheld if you break your lease.
No one can predict the future. The best way to protect yourself is to read, read, and read your lease again! Understand the terms even in the unlikely event you have to break the contract. This way you are prepared for the financial and legal implications.
How Much Does It Usually Cost to Break a Lease on an Apartment?
Depending on the terms of your lease, tenants can settle an early termination fee, when breaking the agreement. This fee is predetermined by the landlord. The average cost for breaking a lease is usually the first two months of rent.
Can I Rent an Apartment with a Broken Lease?
If you are considering breaking a lease, consider the consequences of this decision. When you terminate your end of the contract, this will negatively impact your rating as a tenant. It goes on record and may not be viewed as favorably by another landlord when you next apply for a rental property.
If you wish to hide your tenant rating, this is not a possibility when breaking the lease is reported to the Tenant Rating Bureau.
We do not advise breaking a lease and not paying the fee that is due. Not only can this result in legal matters but rental companies and landlords are less likely to offer a lease in the future.
What is Included in a Lease?
To prepare for your lease and to ensure you are aware of the points that need to be covered, a look at the terms within the agreement can help you familiarize yourself with it.
1. Names of All Tenants
Check that your name is correctly spelled to avoid future problems.
2. Limits on Occupancy
A breakdown of the number of tenants who can reside at the apartment for the duration of the lease.
3. Term of the Tenancy
The agreed-upon period of tenancy including 6-month or 12-month lease.
The sum agreed upon for monthly rent.
5. Deposits and Fees
The stipulated security deposit, lease cancelation fees, and related costs are presented.
6. Repairs and Maintenance
The responsibilities of landlords and tenants are discussed here.
7. Entry to Rental Property
8. Restrictions on Tenant Illegal Activity
Right to eviction based on tenant illegal activity.
Regulations concerning keeping pets on the property.
10. Other Restrictions
Restrictions as listed by the landlord.
What is a Month to Month in a Lease?
Month to month leases are suited to flexible occupants who cannot commit to a long term lease. These short term leases can be terminated by the landlord or the tenant with prior notice, which avoids the issue of a penalty. Monthly leases are also easier to manage because it is self-renewing. The lease will run from one month to the next unless otherwise indicated by the landlord or the tenant. While these types of leases offer a multitude of benefits, you can expect a higher rental compared to a fixed lease term.
What is a Sublease?
Subleasing is when the leaseholder decides to rent the apartment to another person who is not on the signed lease agreement. There are many reasons for subleasing. If a lessee needs to travel or wants to prevent the consequences of breaking an agreement, then a sublease is pursued. This does not mean that every rental allows subleasing. It is a condition that should be discussed with the landlord or property agency. You can also learn whether subleasing is included in your contract prior to signing. If you have a job where you constantly travel for months at a time, consider subleasing in your contract.
A sublease does not mean that you are exempt from your tenancy obligations. If you do not receive the rent from the sublease, you are responsible for making the payment. It is not the responsibility of the landlord to pursue the sublessee for outstanding payment. The option of subletting can work for some and not for others. Take the time to learn of the pros and cons and whether a subleased contract is a suitable choice.
How Do Apartments Check for Broken Leases?
There may be a situation that is out of your control and a change in your living situation becomes your reality. You may be in the position of breaking the lease on your apartment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking a lease has become a reality for many, and owing to the difficult circumstances, breaking a lease during this period will not be issued to your credit report. Your credit will only be affected if any remaining debts with your landlord have not been settled.
When a lease is broken, it is typically recorded in a report with the Tenancy Bureau.
Should I Settle an Old Apartment Debt?
It is important to settle all outstanding debts prior to applying for a new lease agreement. Remember, any debt that hasn’t been paid to a previous landlord will appear on your credit report. You can easily settle your rental debts and know that it will not have a negative impact on your FICO score. Simply obtain the updated payment details for the debt and make the payment. While this will not change your FICO score, it will certainly appear more favorable to future landlords and property managers/agencies.
What is the Purpose of a Lease?
The purpose of a lease is to provide legal protection for the landlord and the tenant. It is a binding agreement in which the terms for the lease are stipulated so that all parties are aware of their responsibilities. The lease will indicate the period for the contract and the restrictions on occupancy. It is created to protect your rights and that of the landlord.
Can a Landlord End My Lease?
When you enter into a lease agreement, do not only consider your obligations but that of the landlord too. If you miss a clause concerning evictions and find yourself in the midst of being served by your landlord, it can serve as an overwhelming and stressful experience. Understanding when and how a landlord can issue an eviction will best protect your interests.
Landlords can end a lease upon its expiration. The landlord does not have to issue a lease renewal. They are also not bound to extending your lease if you are looking for extra time. Follow up on your eviction rights, so you are aware of what landlords or property agencies can and cannot do.
What Will Happen to the Lease Once the Apartment or a House has Been Sold?
Should the property owner decide to sell the apartment and your lease has not ended, they cannot simply evict you. The landlord must adhere to tenancy law and that means upholding the lease agreement in its entirety. If the house or the apartment is sold, the terms of the original lease for the tenant will remain unchanged. If you have agreed to a monthly lease, the responsibilities stated in this agreement will suffice.
Does a Lease Include Maintenance?
Most lease agreements will cover the basic maintenance of the property. This includes gardening such as trimming the lawn and trees, painting damaged walls, and calling out the necessary professionals when plumbing problems or electrical faults occur. Take the time to read your contract very carefully. Some landlords hand maintenance over to the tenants. If a plumbing issue occurs, this may involve you contacting the plumber and issuing the landlord with the costs. Maintenance procedures are best handled in writing so there is no confusion as to who is responsible for repairs and restoration.
What is a Security Deposit?
The security deposit is a necessary part of leasing an apartment. Security deposits are issued by the lessee as a means of financial protection for the landlord or the property manager. By the end of the lease, the property should be in its original condition, clean, and well-organized. Any damages or dirt left behind could result in the forfeit of a security deposit.
If you fail to pay your monthly rental, the security deposit can also be used to cover the cost. The deposit can only be used to settle the expenses associated with the property damage.
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How to Move Out?
Just follow the steps below:
1. Issue Notice
If you wish to move out of your rental apartment, the first step is to provide the landlord with 30 days notice. This differs from the sale of a home. Real estate sales involve a realtor and placing the property on the market. With rentals, once the lease expires, provide your landlord with notice to avoid any legal consequences and fees.
2. Plan the Move
Before you decide to move out, find properties of interest that are available and within your price range. You do not want to end up without a place to stay because of poor planning.
3. Take Care of Utilities
Any bills that are outstanding concerning water and electricity must be settled. Leaving debts will simply impact your credit score, which means difficulty seeking approval for a future application.
Avoid losing your security deposit by cleaning the property. Landlords will conduct a pre-eviction inspection. If damages are present and the apartment left in a mess, the landlord can withdraw the security deposit.
5. Book Elevator Time
If you do not live on the first floor, booking elevator time is an important part of a smooth move. A moving company will be occupying the stairwells and elevator, so arranging a suitable day and time will avoid inconveniencing the remaining occupants.
6. Get Your Security Deposit Back
To ensure you get your security deposit back, provide your original landlord or property manager with your new address. Landlords are not required to find you to issue the security deposit. Ensure they have your details to prevent complications when paying back the deposit.
7. Change Your Address
All bills and services will require a change of address, so you receive post and deliveries to your new apartment.
The Importance of a Lease Agreement
A lease agreement governs the relationship between the tenant and the landlord. It stipulates the terms according to which both parties must adhere for the duration of the lease. When you are searching for a new apartment to rent, do some homework on your rights as a lessee. This can prevent any surprises in your contract. It also helps you negotiate terms you are unhappy with.
Read your lease carefully and understand what is required. You can avoid the stress of failing to abide by lease terms, security deposits and evictions by reading the terms of the lease.