Understanding Lease Agreements

Once you have decided where you want to live, you may be asked to sign a lease. A lease is a contract between you (the tenant) and a landlord. A lease is a record that you have rented a house or an apartment and offers both you and the landlord legal protections. If your landlord does not require a lease, you should request one.

What’s typically included in your lease:
  • Description or address of the premises being leased or rented
  • Name and address of landlord
  • Name(s) of tenant(s)
  • Length of the tenancy/duration of lease
  • Deposits
  • Penalties for breaking the lease early
  • Amount of security deposit and how it may be used and returned
  • Rent amount
  • Rent due date (including any grace period)
  • Late rent fees
  • House or apartment rules and acceptable use of the property
1. Read carefully

Read your lease carefully and ask questions before signing.

2. Understand the lease duration.
  • Your lease agreement will include a move in date and a move out date. Make sure that these dates are correct.
3. Understand if you can end your lease early.
  • Are there penalties?
  • Are you responsible for paying the remainder of the lease?
  • Can your rent be refunded if you end your lease early?
4. Be cautious of “re-rent” fees.
  • A “re-rent” fee is a fee that the landlord charges for finding another person to rent the property if you break the lease early.
5. Be careful about paying for the whole season upfront.
  • Be cautious of lease agreements that ask you to pay for the whole season upfront or require payment in installments that are not on a weekly or monthly basis.
6. Understand the terms of security deposits.
  • Is the security deposit refundable?
  • Are there any mandatory cleaning fees or other fees that will be taken out of the security deposit?
  • How and when is the security deposit returned?

If an inspection is required it is within the tenant’s rights to request this BEFORE they vacate.

Some lease agreements have a clause that states the security deposit will be withheld if you terminate the lease agreement early.

7. Keep copies of lease documents.
  • Get contact information for your landlord – full name, phone number, and email address.
  • Get receipts for payment of your security deposit and all rent payments – save these for your records.
  • Keep a copy of your lease that is signed by both you and your landlord.

If a lease agreement is not provided by your landlord, you have the right to request one.

  1. Read your entire lease to understand what you are agreeing to and keep a copy for your records. Contact InterExchange if you have questions about your lease.
  2. Your lease covers the legal terms of your agreement.
  3. Keep a paper copy of your lease, and make an electronic version too.
  4. Your lease should state whether there are penalties for breaking your lease early. Be sure to carefully check the beginning and end dates on your lease.
  5. The safest way to pay your security deposit is when you’re already in the U.S. Never wire money to someone you don’t know!
  6. Your lease should explain any circumstances in which your security deposit would not be returned in full.
  7. For advice on how to be a good roommate, check out Do These Eight Things When Living With Roommates.
  8. Always keep proof of your security deposit and rent payments in case there is a disagreement with your roommates or your landlord.
  9. If your landlord wants rent before meeting you in person, it could be a scam. Contact InterExchange, and we can help.
  10. Be sure to make your landlord aware of prior damage to avoid a disagreement when you move out.

The information provided is intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.