Understanding Your Lease

The purpose of this page is to provide prospective tenants with a comprehensive overview of what to expect when signing a rental agreement. Entering into a lease is a legal contract, and tenants should educate themselves on all aspects of the agreement to avoid any unwelcome surprises down the road. While rental terms are often non-negotiable, especially with larger management companies, being informed on typical lease clauses, required fees, and renters' rights can empower tenants to make the best decision for their individual situation. With the guidance on this page, tenants can gain the knowledge needed to confidently review and understand their lease before signing.

Do NOT rely solely on the information included in this site, as your lease is the binding agreement between you and your property owner/manager, and this site is a guideline of what’s often included in it.

Property Details and Maintenance Info

  • While it may seem obvious, take two minutes or less to confirm the property address, basic amenities, the term (the date you move in to the date you leave), and your personal information

  • Make sure the lease does not auto-renew if you do not want it to (this is usually the case, but it’s good to double check)

  • Additionally, make sure you have contact details for whoever your property owner/manager states you should call with maintenance issues (sometimes this is the property themselves, other times not)

  • Check to see what utilities you must pay for, and which are included in the rent. Make sure it matches what the property owner/manager has disclosed to you

  • Check the parking policy. This will usually state whether parking spots are provided, if it’s paid parking, and where the parking area is
  • Rent, Fees, and Deposit

    The below bullets should be included on your lease. These are some things to confirm/verify:

  • Rent (How much will you pay? How often? How will you pay? Is there a grace period if paid late?)

  • Deposit (How many deposits are there? How much do you pay? How do you get the deposit back? When do you get the deposit back? What are the conditions for getting the deposit back?)

  • Fees (What kinds of fees are there and how can they be avoided? Example: Is there a fee if your rent is paid late, and how much is it?)
  • Core Premises / Apartment / Property

  • The Care of Premises generally states that you, the tenant, agree to take care of the place you’re living, the furniture, etc.; pretty simple, right?

  • IF SOMETHING IS LOST/DAMAGED , know your renters' rights, but READ YOUR LEASE! Your lease outlines which party (you or the property owner/property manager) will be financially responsible for damages and repairs. However, the linked premise (here) outlines one of the more ideal conditions, should you have the ability to negotiate (see Tip #5)

  • Additionally, a tenant should not alter the property or anything without the property owner/property manager consent

  • Heat, water, air conditioning , and other utilities should not be wasted or used recklessly/wastefully

  • At the end of the lease, the property should be returned to the property owner/property manager in the same condition it was found in, what property owner/property managers call ‘tenantable’ (essentially in ‘good enough’ condition)
  • Disturbances and Usage

  • I was not sure this needed to be specified, but most leases include a statement that NO ILLEGAL CONDUCT can occur in the property, whether you, your roommate(s), guests, etc. This includes over the internet if you access illegal content on the premises

  • Furthermore, most leases prohibit unwanted disturbance or interference to other tenants or the property owner/property manager. This includes loud noises, illegal activity, and other disturbances that may be considered a nuisance

  • Many leases also state that the property can only be used for certain purposes. Some have contingencies regarding occupancy and guests, smoking/vaping, and/or renter’s insurance, to name a few
  • Pets

  • If you plan on bringing a pet to your property, ensure that the lease states whether or not the property owner/property manager accepts pets

  • Confirm if there is a limit on the number of pets and if only certain pets are allowed, or if there is a size limit

  • If pets are accepted, oftentimes, there will be increase in rent. Check if this is specified in your lease or if it depends on the number of pets you have

  • Suppose your rent is structured so that you and your roommate(s) contribute towards one amount rather than the property owner/property manager dealing with each tenant's lease individually. In that case, you should speak to your roommate(s) about how the additional rent will be handled.
  • Eviction and Termination

  • Eviction is the process of removing a tenant from a property. Termination is the process of ending a lease

  • You will recieve an eviction warning or notice if any of these policies are often violated. Make sure you understand your property owner/property manager eviction policy
  • SPECIAL: Retaliation Prohibited

    Here is the shortened paragraph with bold HTML tags: Prospective tenants may want to request adding a retaliatory action clause if not already in the lease. This clause prohibits landlords from punishing tenants for exercising legal rights like filing complaints. The clause should state the landlord cannot terminate the lease, increase rent, decrease services, or otherwise retaliate against the tenant for protected actions. Having this clause protects both parties by setting expectations around dispute resolution. Tenants are advised to negotiate respectfully with the landlord or management company if interested in adding this clause.
  • REPRISALS PROHIBITED –"Property owner/manager/management company or group acknowledges that provisions of applicable law forbid a property owner, manager, or management company or group from threatening to take or taking reprisals against any tenant for seeking to assert their legal rights.”