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Know What You’ve Signed Up For: Understanding the Lease Agreement

May 5th, 2016


It is common sense to read contracts thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line, yet that piece of wisdom often seems to evade renters’ minds when they sign their lease agreements. As with any other contractual agreement, it’s important that you understand the basics and we’re to help you with that. Here are three terms you’re likely to find on your lease agreement and what they mean:

1. Deposit

Typically, renters are asked to pay a deposit upon moving in to their future apartment; this amount is held for the length of your lease and is generally partially refunded to you when you move. The amount of your deposit and whether it’s refundable or not will depend on your apartment complex, but one thing remains the same: the exact terms of your deposit should be clearly spelled out on your lease agreement. Most landlords will retain a portion of your deposit for routine cleaning, but you may also forfeit your deposit amount if you caused damage (i.e. permanently stained carpeting) while living in the unit or broke your lease prematurely.

2. Subletting

Let’s say your cousin needs a place to live, and you happen to have a spare bedroom at your apartment; he can just move in there and pay a portion of your rent, right? While this may seem like no big deal to you, your landlord may think otherwise. This situation is referred to as subletting in lease agreements, and may sometimes be prohibited without your landlord’s permission. The government has strict housing regulations that landlords are held responsible for, so, what you may see as a casual understanding between you and your new roommate, your landlord may see as a potential liability. So, if you plan to have a roommate(s) in your new space, keep the peace and simply let your landlord know in advance.

3. Utilities

Here’s another term that may vary from complex to complex. The term utilities refers to any additional service that you, as a renter, is financially responsible for. It is typical for landlords to cover the cost of garbage pickup and water, while individual tenants are generally responsible for gas, electricity, and Internet. Like any additional fee, however, these terms will be thoroughly outlined on your lease agreement; if you don’t see that the landlord covers a utility, you can safely assume that you’ll be held responsible.

Next time you’re ready to move into a new apartment, be sure to thoroughly read the lease agreement. By doing so, you’ll have a solid understanding of what you’re getting into and can avoid any unpleasant surprises down the line.


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