After the Lease is Signed
Once a lease has been signed, the length of the tenancy binds the landlord and tenant unless either party violates the lease. If the tenant enters into a one-year lease, but decides to move out after two months without the landlord's permission and if the landlord has not broken the lease, the tenant could owe the landlord 10 month's rent even though the tenant is not living on the premises any more.
Before moving into your new rental home, make sure your belongings are protected. Renter's insurance is available at a relatively low cost and is one of the wisest purchases a renter can make. The landlord or property owner's property insurance will not cover your personal property. If you are still on your parent/guardian's insurance, you may be covered by your parent's homeowner's insurance. Check with your parents to determine what would and would not be covered in the event of a loss. Insurance agents are listed in the Yellow Pages. Shop around for a good price before buying a policy as price and coverage will vary.
- Pay rent on time
- Keep the property clean
- Pay for damages resulting from their own negligence or the negligence of a guest
- Refrain from taking on additional occupants or subleasing without the landlord's written permission
- Allow the landlord to enter the premises to make needed repairs and follow inspections
- Follow ALL provisions of the lease
- Make sure the property is livable and complies with all building and housing codes.
- Make and pay for repairs due to ordinary wear and tear
- Refrain from turning off a tenant's water, electricity, or gas
- Provide written notice to tenants when ownership of the property is transferred to a new landlord
- Not unlawfully discriminate
- Not raise the rent or change other lease provisions without giving the tenant proper notice (generally one month's written notice unless the lease says otherwise) and obtaining the tenant's written consent to the change
Your lease should state which repairs are the landlord's responsibility and which are the tenant's. If you live with more than one tenant, you should select a spokesperson who will be responsible for contacting the landlord and requesting repairs. Ordinary wear and tear and damages due to natural forces (e.g. weather) should be the responsibility of the landlord. Damages caused by the negligence of the tenant or a guest should be paid by the tenant. When repairs are necessary, ask the landlord to make repairs within a reasonable period of time. If repairs are not made, make a 7
written request for the necessary repairs and keep a copy of the letter. If the dwelling becomes unsafe due to repair problems, the tenant should contact the local health department or building inspector. If a tenant withholds rent payments until repairs are completed, the tenant may be in violation of the lease and may be subject to eviction.
A landlord may not evict a tenant without a court order. The landlord may begin the proceedings if a tenant:
- Damages property
- Fails to pay rent
- Violates the terms of the lease
- Injures the landlord or another tenant
- Allows alcohol or drug related criminal activity on the premises
- Fails to vacate at the end of the lease term
The tenant will receive a notice that an eviction lawsuit has been filed and will have the opportunity to be heard in court before any eviction.
Expiration of a Lease
Leases specify a date on which the tenant must move. In some situations, the landlord requires a notice, and in other cases notice is not required. Read your lease carefully to determine whether or not you are required to provide notice. Some leases contain an automatic renewal clause. These are automatically renewed unless the tenant provides advance notice to the landlord that the tenant will move when the lease ends. Any agreement between a tenant and landlord allowing the tenant to stay after the lease ends should be in writing.
If a tenant needs to move out before the lease terminates, the lease may be cancelled if the landlord approves. The tenant and landlord should sign a statement that the lease has been cancelled by mutual agreement.
If a tenant wishes to move out before a lease ends, he may choose to sublease. This means transferring your lease to another person who moves in and pays rent. Before subleasing to another individual, the tenant must get the landlord's approval. When subleasing, you are responsible to your landlord for the original lease. You also can be held responsible for any problems created by the new tenant. Remember, you should have a written agreement to sublease or cancel your lease.
Resolving Conflict with Your Roommates
Before you move in, discuss with your roommates what everyone is bringing. When everyone arrives, organize a group meeting to discuss how things will work. Do not let conflicts linger. If you have a problem with one of your roommates, be sure to talk about it right away. Make sure you have a good idea of everyone's habits (e.g. sleeping, studying, and cleanliness) before agreeing to live together. It is a good idea to split the utility bills between the house members. The way, one person is not responsible for all of the bills. Make sure you communicate with your roommates about what you owe.