Common Rental Lease Terms To Understand

By Danielle Wirsansky on January 23, 2019

Renting your first apartment is usually one of the most exciting memories for a college student. It is often the first time that a college student has been truly put in charge of themselves. Before that, you lived at home. And in between, you lived in a dorm on campus with lots of rules and regulations and where you were monitored by a Resident Assistant. But your first apartment? That’s a real milestone.

You have to find potential roommates, you have to scout out properties, you have to make a budget and be sure to have enough money to pay your bills, you have to fill out an application, you have to get accepted to a property and finally… you have to sign a lease.

There are a lot of steps between the first and the last, and it can be easy to get bogged down by it all or, on the other end of the spectrum, to be so excited that you blast through the lease without really reading it.

This is a mistake.

Or, you do read it but are unfamiliar with the language and jargon used in the contract that you are not really sure what you are reading. And if you do not understand the terms of the contract, how can you abide by them? You should never sign something that you do not understand because you might be agreeing to terms that, if you actually understood, you would never have agreed to. But once the contract is signed, it is signed. It is legally binding. And if you do not follow those terms, you will be in violation of the contract and can be punished and dealt with accordingly.

You want to avoid all that by understanding what the contract means to begin with, right? This means understanding basic contract and rental property jargon. To help you out, continue reading this handy guide with a list of common rental lease terms you should understand!

pexels.com

*Terms have been put in alphabetical order*

Amenities

Amenities are the elements of a property or complex that make it special or stand out from other properties, and thus more appealing to potential renters. It usually refers to a facility, common area, or service that is available only to renters on the property. This could range from anything like a pool to a gym to a volleyball court to a concierge service that provides easy access to dry cleaning and other features.

Common Areas

Rather than referring to the usual or the everyday, common areas are those spaces of the rental property that are accessible or belong to all of the residents of the property. This could be the property clubhouse, a pool area, an on facility gym, a computer lab, and more. These areas are for all tenants to use and should be treated with respect so that everyone can enjoy them and so that the privilege of using the common areas is not revoked by the property managers due to abuse.

Infographic by Danielle Wirsansky

Deposit Requirements

You should always check to see if a property manager is going to require a deposit from you before you sign the lease so that you can make sure you have the money in order to pay it and are not surprised by it at the last minute. Most property managers will not allow you to move into the unit, even if you have signed the lease, until the deposit is paid. Some students who skim the agreement do not realize they have a deposit to pay until it is too late, and a deposit is usually several hundred dollars, which can be a hard last-minute expense to deal with.

Property managers will incorporate deposit requirements into the lease to help ensure that you, as a tenant, will not damage or destroy the unit. The property manager will return your deposit after you move out… but only after they go through your apartment and check for any damage. If there is damage, they pay for the repairs using your deposit. If there is any money left, they will give you the remainders of it. Otherwise, you lose your deposit. That is why it is a good idea to read through the lease and see if they have any rules about putting nails in the wall or painting the walls or anything like that so you can be sure to get your deposit back.

Eviction

As the good folks at Merriam-Webster define it, eviction means “to force out: EXPEL,” or more specifically to “to put (a tenant) out by legal process.” According to Urban Dictionary, eviction means “kicked out of your house [usually] due to overdue rent.” Eviction is what happens when you do not pay your rent by your due date, or even during the grace period. This means that you default on your rent by not paying it at all and your property manager is legally able to kick you out of the property. You cannot stay there for free, after all.

However, a property manager cannot just kick you out. There are procedures they must follow, which should be laid out in the rental lease. This includes giving you, the tenant, proper notice of the eviction. The property manager must then file a lawsuit. If you, the tenant, refuses to move out, then the property manager must file a lawsuit specifically to evict you. If you dispute your eviction, then you are entitled to a court hearing. However, if you lose your court hearing a sheriff will show up to the property and physically evict and remove you from the premises. Only the sheriff can do that—your property manager cannot physically remove you. And if you lose your lawsuit against eviction, not only do you have to move out but you will have to pay for your property manager’s lawyer fees, which will add up. Though if you win the case, your property manager will be liable for paying all of your attorney bills.

Beyond all this, getting evicted will also tank your credit score and make it harder for you to rent properties in the future as other property managers will be hesitant to allow someone to move in that has been evicted in the past. Do your utmost best to avoid being evicted!

Extended Absence

An extended absence is when you plan to be away from your property for some kind of extended time. Some property managers will slip into your lease that they require notice when you plan to be away from the property for an extended absence. If this is included in your contract, be sure to check what defines as extended absence by your property manager as this could be anything from three days away from the apartment to a week away from the apartment. Whatever it is, you want to be sure to follow the rules so that you and your property manager have a harmonious relationship.

Grace Period

A grace period is a gift for cash strapped college students everywhere. If for some reason you did not pay your rent on the rent due date, whether it was because you were low on funds or simply forgot, your property manager gives you a grace period to turn your rent in. While technically the rent is due on the due date, they give you a little wiggle room, a few days in which to turn your rent in late without being slapped with a late fee or being evicted. It is usually a span of 3-5 days. However, after the grace period ends, if you have still not paid your rent you may be in trouble.

Overnight Guests

Overnight guests refer to people whose names are not on the lease but that are sleeping overnight at the property. This could be an out of town friend visiting for the weekend or a significant other who sleeps at your place every other night. Many properties will have rules about overnight guests, especially pertaining to how many nights in a row an overnight guest can stay. This is to help prevent squatting, where people live illegally in a space and try to claim ownership of it because they have been living in it for so long; to help prevent any liability on the part of the property should the guest get hurt or damage any aspect of the property; and to help protect a tenant whose roommate has people constantly in the apartment for long periods of time, which might make them feel uncomfortable, especially if that guest is not paying part of the rent.

Rent Due Date

A rent due date is pretty self-explanatory. It is the day that your rent is due, in full, to your landlord or property manager. Most properties have the rent due date set on the first day of the month so that it is easier for tenants to remember to pay it on time. If you do not pay your rent on time, you will often be fined, and eventually, evicted from the property. You want to avoid that so pay your rent by the rent due date whenever you are able to avoid getting into more financial mischief!

Rent Increase

You might have thought that you signed a lease and agreed to pay $800 a month in rent, but if you did not read your lease agreement well, you might very well have overlooked any rent increases that were written into the contract. Sure your rent may be $800 a month now, but in three months’ time, the rent might go up to $825 a month because of rent increase that the property manager is putting in place. That would be a big difference! Instead of announcing rent increases, property managers are increasingly just slipping it into agreements without verbally bringing it up or acknowledging them so you want to be sure that you stay on top of that so you do not get any unpleasant financial surprises.

via Pexels.com

Renters Insurance

Many properties you rent from may require you to get a renters insurance policy upon moving in. This is the property’s way of protecting themselves from being sued by you if any of your belongings housed in the property get destroyed or if the property itself becomes uninhabitable in some way. Renters insurance is also your protection if these events were to occur to. Having the insurance would help you to replace belongings that were destroyed or stolen in an event outside of your control as well as help you to pay rent if you had to move elsewhere for a period of time because the property you were staying at became unlivable for some reason. You can set the terms and limits of the insurance to help cover the costs in case you have any expensive personal items or objects of value that would be difficult to replace should they be damaged.

Right of Entry

Basically, the right of entry is written into almost every leasing agreement. It basically gives the property manager permission to enter the property, but under certain conditions. It allows them to enter to inspect the property, to supply necessary or required services to the apartment (like repairing something), or even show the property to potential tenants or maintenance workers. However, this does not mean your property manager can just enter your home willy-nilly, any time of day they want and without any notice. They will usually only be able to enter the property during business hours, unless otherwise arranged with you, the tenant, and generally, they must give you at least 24 hours’ notice. However, a property manager can also enter the apartment without your consent if there is an emergency, you have financially abandoned the property, or if they have received a court order giving them permission to do so. This allows property managers to maintain the apartment and uphold their duties as a landlord and protect you from having your privacy violated or any unpleasant situations from arising.

Try and make sure that you understand these terms, as well as any other that look unfamiliar to you, before signing any contract!

Danielle Wirsansky graduated from FSU with a BA in Theatre, a BA in Creative Writing with a minor in History, and an MA in Modern European History with a minor in Public History. While a graduate student, she served as the Communications Officer for the History Graduate Student Association and President/Artistic Director of White Mouse Theatre Productions. She studied abroad in London, England for the Spring 2015 semester at FSU's study center for the Playwriting Program and interned for the English National Theatre of Israel in Summer of 2015. Her first musical, City of Light, opened as part of FSU's New Horizons Festival in Spring of 2016. She has also won the MRCE and URCAA Research grants from FSU. In the past, she served as the Marketing Director for the FSU Student Theatre Association, the intern for the Holocaust Education Resource Council, and the research assistant of Prof. Nathan Stoltzfus. She has previously written for Context Florida (Contributing Writer), USA Today College (Contributing Writer), Sheroes of History (Contributing Blogger), No(le)Reservations (Contributing Blogger), Female, Reloaded (Arts/Entertainment Editor) , I Want a Buzz Magazine (intern), Mandarin Newsline (youth arts update columnist), Distink Designs (Guest blogger), whatscheaper.com (associate editor), escapewizard.com (associate editor), Spark TLH (Contributor), the Tallahassee Democrat (contributor), Elan Literary Magazine (Head of Marketing), and the Improviser Newspaper (Opinions Editor). Danielle has been lucky to be writing for Uloop since 2015 and to have served as the FSU Campus Editor since 2015.

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