Making a Rental Agreement
You and your landlord will enter into a lease or a periodic rental agreement (month-to-month). Unless the written agreement states otherwise, the rental period is the amount of time between rental payments. The tenancy expires at the end of each period for which rent has been paid and is renewed with the next payment of rent.
In other words, every month your tenancy expires at the end of the month; you renew your tenancy with the payment of rent. Even a month-to-month rental agreement will spell out the amount of time that a landlord must give the tenant for such changes as raising the rent or ending the rental agreement. Likewise, the rental agreement will indicate the required length of notice that the tenant must give before moving out.
A lease usually creates a longer rental term than a periodic agreement. Most residential leases are for six months or a year, though rent is usually paid monthly. If you have a lease, your rent cannot be raised while the lease is in effect, unless the period of the lease expires for certain reasons, such as failing to pay rent or damaging the property.
A lease may be difficult for you to break, especially if the landlord cannot find another tenant to take over the lease. Before you sign any lease agreement, read it carefully and make sure you understand the terms of the lease. If you have questions about any conditions in the lease, take the document to someone who is qualified to give legal advice.
The rental agreement should contain the following:
* the period of tenancy
* the date rent is due
* the amount of any late charges
* whether or not pets are allowed
* the number of tenants allowed
* what utilities, if any, are included in the rent
* whether or not extermination is part of regular maintenance
* whether or not a security deposit is required and how much
* who is responsible for maintenance and repairs
Always ask for a copy of the completed agreement after you and the landlord have signed it; keep the copy in a safe place.
Depositing Money to Hold a Rental Unit
If you agree to rent an apartment but are not going to move in immediately, the landlord may ask you for a holding deposit or a reservation deposit.
This is a cash deposit to hold the unit, usually for a stated amount of time, until you pay the first month’s rent and any security deposits. If you change your mind about moving in, the landlord may be able to keep your deposit.
Ask the following questions before paying any deposit:
* If you decide to rent the unit, will the holding deposit be applied to the first month’s rent? Ask for a deposit receipt.
* Is any of the holding deposit refundable if you change your mind about renting?