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Housing & Residential Life

Glossary of Leasing Terms


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As your student prepares to live off campus, it is important for them to fully understand the terms and expectations outlined in their lease. This list covers everything they need to know to rent responsibly.

Breach: An act that breaks any term detailed in the lease.

Cosigner: See Guarantor.

Credit report: A report of your financial history, specifically your ability to repay loans, which the management company uses to judge your reliability as a rent-paying tenant.

Duration (or Term): The amount of time you are agreeing to be held to the lease. Most leases have a duration of six or twelve months.

Guarantor (or Cosigner): A person who guarantees payment of rent by signing alongside the resident, even if they will not be living in the apartment. A cosigner is often required if you are unable to prove a specified amount of income. Often, a parent or guardian with a regular income will cosign for a student renter.

Landlord: The person who rents and/or manages the rental property and collects payment from the tenant.

Month-to-month: A type of duration (or term) in which the terms of the lease only apply for one month at a time, after which the tenant may re-sign or move out.

Move-in inspection: A list of all fixtures and details of the property’s condition to be filled out by the tenant upon move-in and used after move-out to record any damages. For example, if there is a stain on the carpet when you move in, you would note the specifics on the inspection to avoid being charged for cleaning of that particular stain when you move out.

Notice period: The amount of time prior to when you plan to move out (or extend your lease) when you must inform your landlord — often in writing. Most leases have a notice period of one or two months, i.e. you must turn in your written notice 30 or 60 days before the lease term is scheduled to end to avoid being automatically re-entered into another term or charged a fee.

Occupancy: The number of people legally allowed to live in the property.

Pet deposit: The fee you pay upon signing the lease as a guarantee against any damage your pet might cause, i.e. if your pet damages the carpet, money to replace it will be deducted from your pet deposit.

Proof of income: Leases and rental applications may require your employment history and proof of income to ensure that you make enough money to cover the rent (renters are often required to have a monthly intake of three times the amount of rent). Student renters may have the option of showing proof of financial aid.

Prorated (rent): Payment calculated to cover a specific amount of time, usually less than a month, i.e. if you move in on the 15th day of the month, your rent payment for that month will be prorated and you will only be charged for half of that month rather than the full amount.

Renters insurance: Many leases require the tenant to purchase renters insurance in order to cover theft, fire or water damage, or might offer it through the management company for an additional fee. (See p. 17 for more information.)

Deductible: The amount of money the insurance policy holder (you) must pay before the insurance company will pay a claim.

Liability: The monetary amount for which you will be covered if you are sued for damages that fall under the protection of your insurance. Some apartments require a specific amount of liability.

Screening (background check): A report on the rental applicant’s criminal and/or financial history, often required to be approved for the lease.

Security deposit: The amount, in addition to the first month’s rent and any other fees, that you will be required to pay upon move-in. The landlord or management company can keep a portion or all of the security deposit if repairs and/or cleaning are needed after you vacate it, so be sure you know what you need to do to get your full security deposit back. The management company may also keep the deposit if you break any of the terms of the lease.

Sublet: The act by which a tenant on the lease rents the property to someone else who has not signed the lease, or allows that person to live in the unit in the tenant’s place. (See p. 32 for more information.)

Tenant: The person(s) occupying the property rented by the landlord.

Termination for cause: Reason(s) for which the landlord may end the lease early and require you to vacate the property. Causes typically include failure to pay rent, use of drugs or other illegal activity in the unit, or breaking other terms of the lease.

Utilities: Products such as electricity, gas, water and trash/recycling collection — the fees for which the tenant is responsible. Utility fees may be included in your monthly rent payment, added to your payment, or you may be responsible for setting up services and payments through the utility companies on your own.

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