Become a Lease Genius
A lease is a binding legal contract between you (the tenant or lessee) and the landlord (lessor). You are given the possession of an apartment that is owned by the landlord and, therefore, there are rules as to what you must do and not do. A typical lease states the terms of the rental agreement and is legally enforceable. Most landlords use the Fixed Term Lease with an addendum.
5 Things to Know About Your Lease
- Typical terms of a lease: Most leases are for 12 months, Sept. 1- Aug. 31. If looking for a shorter term, consider a sublet (see our Subletting page). If your lease is Tenant-at-Will (month-to-month), your landlord can raise your rent or evict you with 30 days notice. You must also give 30 days notice to leave a Tenant-at-Will rental. A year lease provides greater stability, but less flexibility.
- When to sign the lease: Sign the lease only AFTER you have read it (including the addendum) in its entirety, and have had someone else read it, such as your co-signer. Only sign once you have clarified all concerns, negotiated any terms, and feel comfortable abiding by all terms of the lease. Use our Lease Genius Guide and Lease Genius Checklist to identify important clauses. Do not sign a lease for an apartment that is under construction unless you understand the risks that construction may not be complete when you move in.
- What to pay upfront: There are generally four fees you will need to pay when you sign a lease: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, and broker’s fee (realtor fee). You may also be required to pay an application fee by a realtor or broker (a landlord cannot charge this fee). Do not complete the application, pay an application fee, or any other deposits until you have seen and agree to the lease, all addenda, and applications clauses, as some applications have non-refundable clauses. Request a fee disclosure form to confirm the due dates of remaining payments. Refer to our Rental Costs page for more information.
- No More Than 4: This City of Boston zoning ordinance protects you from unsafe conditions by limiting the number of unrelated persons who can live together to 4.
- Watch out for:
- “As is” clauses that stipulate the premises will be taken “as is” – this does not protect you against receiving the apartment in an unclean and unsanitary condition.
- Some leases allow your landlord to access your apartment without your consent. Protect your right to privacy by making sure your lease has a clause that states the landlord must give you reasonable notice.
- Any unusual or unreasonable rules or regulations in the addendum that may not be in your best interest. Be sure you read all rules and ask for clarification as needed.
- Scams! Learn how to identify a rental scam.
What’s Included in Your Lease
Ready to Sign?
Once you have seen the apartment, been approved, and reviewed the lease, you are almost done.
Here are your final steps before you sign.
- Get verbal promises in writing! It may feel awkward to ask for verbal promises (from your landlord, realtor, broker, etc.) to be put in writing, but it will protect you and ensure that everything you are agreeing to is legally binding.
- Ask any remaining questions! Never sign a lease to which you do not agree! You can walk away from a lease before you sign it, however, you may lose any non-refundable fees. Here are some examples of questions to ask before you sign.
- Are sublets likely to be approved?
- What is the process for subletting?
- What time is move in? Move out?
- What is the best way to contact maintenance for an emergency (no heat, water leak, etc)?
- One final check! Use our Lease Genius Checklist to review your own lease. Make sure your lease isn’t missing any information and you know the important addenda items.
- Want a second opinion about a clause or rule? After reviewing your lease, fill out the Lease Review form with specific questions for our team! We will provide some insight within 24-48 hours.
After You Sign!
- Get a copy of your lease. A landlord is legally required to provide you with one copy of your lease (hard copy or electronic) for free.
- Obtain receipts for all deposits and payments made to the realtor.
- Make a moving plan well in advance of the first day of your lease. Here’s what to expect on September 1st and general moving tips to get started.
Lease Review Tools
Below is access to our Lease Genius Guide, Lease Genius Checklist, and Lease Inquiry Form. Click on whichever resource you need!