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Rental Agreements

Read the lease/rental agreement very carefully. Have someone explain it to you, if necessary. It is a legal document that states the “rules” you must follow to continue living in the apartment. Make sure that your roommate or roommates sign the lease also so they will be held equally responsible. Keep a copy of the lease/rental agreement so you can refer to it if needed. A lease usually requires that you must live there and pay rent for a certain amount of time; the most common leases are for 6 months, a full year, or month-to-month. If you decide to move, you must wait until the lease is up.

There are advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before signing a lease. A lease gives you protection that a month-to-month rental agreement does not. In a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord can evict you, raise your rent, or change other terms of the agreement simply by giving you a minimum of 30 days notice of the intended action. With a lease, you are assured that you can stay in the apartment for the specific period of time agreed to and the rent cannot be raised during this time unless the lease includes arrangements to do so. Be sure to consider the time commitment you are making with a lease – is it realistic?

If you decide to move out, you usually have to give the landlord notice 30 days in advance, even if your roommate is staying. The lease will state how much advance notice you must give the landlord.

If you decide to “break” the lease, meaning you decide to move out before your lease is completed, you are still responsible for paying the rent. Some landlords may let you do this without paying penalties, but don’t count on it! If a situation arises where you need to break your lease, talk to your landlord and try to work something out.

For a young person who is starting out and has not established a credit history, the landlord might require an older, more established person to co-sign the lease. If you handle the situation properly, renting an apartment can be the start of a good credit history. When you move out, you can use your former landlord as a reference on the application form for a new apartment. Landlords and apartment managers check out your previous rental history when making a decision on whether to rent to you.

When can the rent be raised?

It depends. In a rental agreement, your landlord can raise your rent any amount if he/she gives you proper written notice. You must be notified of the increase at least 30 days in advance of the increase. If you have a lease, your landlord cannot raise your rent unless there is a provision for this in the lease agreement. Of course, when your lease is up, the new lease may call for a different amount of rent.

When can the landlord enter my home?

You have a basic right of privacy, which your landlord should respect. Your landlord may enter your place only in the following cases: In an emergency To make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements To supply necessary or agreed upon services To show the unit to prospective buyers, tenants or repair workers. When you have abandoned or given up the premises As a result of a court order

What if I get evicted?

When a landlord wants you to leave the unit, he/she must first give you written notice. If you don’t move out, the landlord’s second step is to sue you in court. A landlord legally cannot walk into your residence and physically remove you or lock you out if you do not move when he/she said to. They must go through the courts first.