The Basics of Entering Into an Apartment Rental Agreement

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An apartment rental agreement is a written or oral short-term tenancy agreement between you, as a renter, and a landlord. It is automatically renewed at the end of the period (usually 30-days), unless you or your landlord terminate it by written notice. This agreement creates a legal relationship (a contract) between the two of you. And it sets the terms you must follow while you live in the rental apartment.

Understanding Rental Agreement Terms

Unlike a fixed-term agreement (a lease for a defined period), the terms of a rental agreement can be changed by written notice. For this reason, it is more flexible than a fixed-term agreement. With proper notice, you can terminate the agreement at any time, for any reason. If you plan to rent the apartment for a short time, this can be beneficial. But, beware – landlords can change any of the terms or raise your rent. If you can’t afford a higher rent or disagree with the new terms, you may find yourself scrambling to locate new housing on short notice.

Common Apartment Rental Agreement Terms

While landlords can put specific terms in an agreement, most commonly found are the following:

  • Names of all tenants: every adult who lives in the rental apartment should be named as a tenant and sign the rental agreement. This makes each of you legally responsible for all terms.
  • Limits on occupancy: this specifies that only you and your minor children can live in the apartment.
  • Term of the tenancy: rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew, unless terminated by you or the landlord.
  • The rent payment: the amount of rent you agree to pay monthly for the apartment.
  • The security deposit: this protects the landlord from your failure to comply with your responsibilities, as written in the agreement. If a security deposit is required, the agreement should show that it was received and indicate the amount paid.
  • Late charges: if the rent is not paid by a certain date each month, this charge covers the money lost by the landlord as a result of your late payment.
  • Rules and regulations: rules that the landlord wants you to follow. These rules state that you can’t do certain things in your apartment or in the common areas of the building.
  • Repairs and maintenance: most agreements say that, as a tenant, you are legally responsible for giving the landlord prompt notice of any repairs the property needs. You will be required to keep the apartment clean and to pay for damage caused by neglect or abuse.
  • Entry to rental property: clarification of your landlord’s legal right to access the property for inspection or to make repairs. This includes how much advance notice you will receive before the landlord enters your apartment.

Before Signing a Rental Agreement

Read the agreement thoroughly. Do not sign an agreement with blank spaces on it. Determine whether the terms are identical to those you and the landlord agreed to when you discussed renting the apartment. If you do not understand something in the agreement, don’t sign it.

When signing a rental agreement, always get a copy. This protects you by preventing the landlord from making changes afterward.


Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.

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