After you find the perfect rental home, you are probably excited to move in as quickly as possible. However, there are a few steps that you must complete before this is possible, such as submitting an application and signing a lease. All rental agreements will include a variety of policies and legal statements that you must agree to before you can move into a property.
In popular areas, property managers receive many applications. Unfortunately, you can be denied if someone else gets in his or her application first. With the competitive nature of housing in many areas of the country, you may be tempted to sign a lease at the first place you are accepted. However, when moving into a rental home or apartment, taking the time to learn the correct terminology can protect your rights and save you from facing issues when you move out. Explore these important terms below:
The person who rents a property is known as the tenant or lessee. Each person who occupies a rental home is a tenant, and every tenant needs to be listed on the rental agreement.
- Property manager
The person who is in charge of the rental home or apartments collecting rent is usually called the property manager. This person can also be referred to as the landlord or lessor. The property manager sometimes owns the home or apartment in question. Other times, this person simply represents a larger rental agency.
- Rental application
Before you can even be considered for a rental home or apartment, you will need to submit a form known as a rental application. This document requires that you enter basic information about yourself such as your:
- Date of birth.
- Social Security Number.
- Current address and previous address if you have moved recently.
- Vehicle information.
- Employer and salary.
You are required to provide the above information so that the property manager can determine your eligibility for housing based on your income and rental history. Note that a background check and credit check is oftentimes completed with this information in hand as well.
Once your rental application is approved, you will sign a legal document known as a lease. The lease contains a number of different policies that you must agree to before you can occupy your new property. The document also includes conditions such as your rental rate, fees, the condition of the rental property, the length of time that you will occupy the property and other terms. Be sure to read this document thoroughly before signing it, as it is a legally-binding contract.
In addition to the amount you pay for rent, you will more than likely need to pay a bill for electric, sewer, water, trash, heat, internet and other services. Some rental agreements will lump water, heat or trash costs, along with other expenses, into your rental rate. However, it is important that you consider the cost of each of these bills when budgeting for your rental apartment or home.
When looking for homes or apartments to rent, look at what the property or community offers overall. Common amenities include things such as onsite laundry, a fitness center, playgrounds, a pool, parking garages and other similar features.
- Renter’s insurance
Most rental agencies and landlords require that you hold renter’s insurance. This type of coverage will protect your personal belongings in the event anything is damaged or stolen. Furthermore, renter’s insurance will cover the property of third parties. For example, if you have a leak in your apartment it may damage your unit as well as your neighbors’ property. Your policy would cover the damage to both units.
- Lease term
In most cases, a lease term refers to the length of time that you will occupy a property. Usually this is a length of 12 months, but many properties are also leased on a month-to-month or six-month basis. Note that the phrase “lease terms” may also refer to the policies contained within a lease. For example, a pet policy is considered a term in many leases.
- Lease renewal
If you choose to continue living in your rental property at the end of your lease term, you may be eligible to renew your lease. Most of the time, your property manager will extend the opportunity to renew a lease if you were a good tenant who paid rent on time and did not cause any issues. A landlord is not obligated to offer this option if he or she wants to find new tenants or take the rental property off the market when your term is over. As such, you cannot always rely on a lease renewal being an option.
Even when given the option of renewing your lease, you may not always want to. In these cases, you must give notice in order to let your landlord know that you will be vacating the property at the end of your lease. Almost every lease agreement will require that you provide notice in writing. Your notice usually needs to be given one to two months in advance.
- Security deposit
When signing a lease, you will need to agree to pay a deposit in addition to the first month’s rent. Your landlord will cash your security deposit check and hold the funds to cover any damage that you may cause to the home or apartment while living there. When you move out, your landlord will assess the condition of your rental property. The cost to repair any major damage will usually be deducted from your security deposit. You will then receive the remainder of the deposit balance.
- Normal wear and tear
It is common for rental homes to sustain damage during the course of a tenant occupying the property. Nail holes, small scrapes, smudges, dents and chipped paint are usually considered normal damage. A landlord cannot deduct funds from a security deposit for damage categorized as “normal wear and tear.” Tenants should note that the definition for this type of damage can vary from one property to the next.