When you rent an apartment, it’s a legal agreement between you and the owner of the property.
What does a lease / rental agreement look like?
The basics of a rental agreement go like this:
- The property owner agrees to let you live in its home
- You agree to make payments to the property owner regularly
That’s it. It’s nothing more complicated than these two points.
However, like all legal agreements, a rental contract is written with provisions that protect both parties. The language of the contract gives certain rights to the property owner as a landlord; and, gives certain rights to you as the tenant.
Common provisions include the right to make home improvements, such as painting walls and replacing fixtures; the right to have pets, such as dogs or cats; and, the right to end your lease early should you take a job in another state.
How long will your rental contract last?
Every rental contract, though, contains certain important sections. The first important section is the listing of your rental term.
When you rent an apartment or a home, your contract will be either a long-term lease or a short-term rental. A long-term lease generally lasts for nine months or more and, when it expires, both parties can agree whether to renew for another term.
By contrast, a short-term rental generally works month-to-month. It automatically renews each month until either the tenant or the landlord elect to cancel.
What is a security deposit, and why does my landlord want one?
The next section of the contract describes your security deposit.
A security deposit is money you give your landlord to pay for damages to the unit after you’ve moved out, beyond what’s considered “typical wear-and-tear.” Your landlord holds your security deposit in a special account, then gives it back to you when you move out.
Your rental contract lists the specific amount of money required for your security deposit. Typically, that amount is equal to twice your monthly rent. If your rent is $1,000 per month, therefore, you can expect your security deposit to be two thousand dollars, unless you have pets.
Renters with pets should expect a three-month security deposit.
What are the rules of a lease agreement?
Other sections you’ll find in your rental contract describe:
- Who pays for heat, electric, internet, and utilities? Some apartment buildings charge you for this. Some do not.
- What kind of grace period do you get for paying your rent each month?
- When somethings break, is the landlord expected to pay for its repair?
All of your lease terms are negotiable, too. If there’s something you see that makes you think twice, ask for clarification from your landlord. Or, if reading contracts is not your thing, get help from an experienced professional.
When you’re comfortable with your lease / rental agreement, sign it and get prepped for Move-In Day.
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