Talk about nerve wracking! Applying for an apartment and reading over the lease or rental agreement can definitely bring beads of sweat to your forehead. Lease agreements are contracts that define tenant-landlord relationships and often use confusing “legalese.” Even the simplest apartment leases can use some pretty uncommon terms and phrases. Do you really know what everything means? It may be good to double check your lease know-how before signing on the dotted line. Here are some quick and easy definitions for common lease terms to help you understand what you’re signing.
The basic lingo: What you need to know to get started
Landlord/Owner: Pretty straight forward. This is the person you are renting the apartment from. The owner of the property.
Lease Term: This is the length of time that the leasing agreement is in effect. Usually one year, but some landlords will agree to a short-term lease for six months, three months, or even month-to-month. Read more about different types of lease terms.
Premise: The property being leased in the agreement. In other words, the apartment, condo, duplex, studio, or bedroom you’re looking to call home!
Tenant: That’s you! The future resident of the property being leased.
Lessee: You again! The person signing the lease as the tenant.
Leasor: The person renting the apartment to you. It’s probably the same as the landlord, but it could also be a property manager or someone else in charge of leasing the apartment to renters.
Eviction: Oooo, this is a scary word. This means that your landlord is kicking you out of the apartment or ending your lease before the lease term is up. Your landlord typically has to notify you in writing before evicting you, and often only under certain circumstances such as failure to pay rent. Find out what the eviction laws are in your state.
Default: This is a failure to meet the requirements of the lease. For example, you might be in “default” if you fail to pay rent or if you try to move before the lease term is up.
Liability: Legalese for “problem.” You might have seen it on signs in locker rooms, waiting rooms, and parking lots that say things like, “Management is not liable for lost, stolen, or damaged property.” Translation: If your stuff gets messed up or stolen, it’s not their problem.
Speak fluent legalese: Know that lease agreement like the back of your hand
Possession: The lawful occupation and use of land. As a tenant, paying rent gives you “possession” of the land but not “ownership” of it.
Quiet Enjoyment: Quiet enjoyment means that tenants in possession of a property have the right to privacy. In other words, the landlord can’t come barging in whenever they want to check up on you.
Abatement of Rent: This basically means you don’t have to pay rent under certain conditions that make the premise unlivable, like if the roof caves in or there’s a fire.
Base Rent: This tricky little term means that there are certain conditions under which your landlord could raise the rent within the lease term. Usually, landlords have to wait for the lease to end before raising the rent. Make sure you are clear on when and how your landlord might increase the cost of your rent.
Arrears: Sounds like “a rear.” If you get behind on the rent, this is legal term for all the back rent you owe.
Parties to a Lease: Nope, this isn’t referring to the next seriously awesome bash you’re throwing. This term refers to anyone who agrees to a lease. This includes you, the landlord, the property management, and any roommates also living with you.
Waiver: Agreeing to give up something that you are entitled to according to the law.
Severability: This means that if part of the contract you are signing (in this case the lease) is later found to be illegal or invalid, the rest of the contract is still binding. Essentially, any invalid parts can be cut out without affecting the rest of the contract.
And the hunt begins! Time to apartment search like a pro
Now that you know how to read common terms found in lease agreements, you’re ready to look for your next home on ApartmentSearch.com. Start searching, save your favorite properties, and find your next apartment on ApartmentSearch.com. You could receive up to $200 in rewards. Seriously!