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 specifications 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 attached addendum.
Watch the “Understanding Your Lease” video!
Top 10: What to Know About Your Lease
- Purpose of the lease: It protects both the landlord and the tenant, as it binds the tenant to make rental payments and protects the tenant from rental increases or eviction during the lease term.
- What is included in the lease: Name of all tenants, landlord contact information, address of the apartment, term of the lease (start and end dates), monthly rent amount, when rent is due, who to send rent to, amount of security deposit, contact information for repairs, subletting permission requirements, and any utilities included.
- 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 month-to-month (or Tenant-at-Will), your landlord can raise your rent or evict you with 30 days notice. You must also give 30 days notice to leave a month-to-month rental. A year lease provides greater protection against changes. Have Off Campus Housing and Support Services’ read your lease for you (Lease Genius)! We will check for legal and illegal fees and important clauses.
- 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 OCHSS (Lease Genius) or your co-signer. Only sign once you have clarified all concerns, negotiated any terms and feel comfortable abiding by all terms of the lease. 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 realtor fee (broker’s 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 or 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. More information on Rental Costs.
- No More Than 4 Rule: The City of Boston zoning ordinance, No More Than 4, protects you from unsafe conditions by limiting the number of unrelated persons who can live together to 4. This is to protect students from overcrowded housing and unsafe conditions.
- 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.
- Get everything in writing! It may feel awkward to ask for verbal promises to be put in writing, but you need to protect yourself and ensure everything agreed upon is in writing.
- 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.
- Ask Questions! Don’t understand a clause or rule? Ask. Don’t agree with the language? Ask to have it changed. Want a second opinion? Ask a Lease Genius!
- — Never sign a lease in which you do not agree! You can walk away from a lease before you sign it.
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