When you’re looking for an apartment to rent, you may see many unfamiliar words in the listings. It can feel overwhelming at times to understand all of the specific rental terms and details. But once you learn some basic rental terminology, the whole process of apartment hunting suddenly becomes a lot easier. Here are some common rental terms to help simplify the process of finding the ideal place to rent.
An abatement is a clause in a lease that protects the renter from paying rent if an apartment becomes damaged and uninhabitable. The damage must not be from the renter’s fault for an abatement to take effect. For instance, if a pipe breaks and floods the apartment, the property owner suspends the lease with an abatement while the property is being fixed and you live elsewhere temporarily. Abatement is not the same as renters insurance and won’t cover damage to the renter’s property. There can also be other circumstances when a property owner and tenant agree to an abatement.
An accessible unit is one that’s usable by an individual with a physical disability. For example, this may refer to apartments with wheelchair accessibility via ramps, wider doorways, lower light switches, and elevators.
3. Amenity fee
Some apartment complexes have amenities such as a pool, an exercise facility, a parking garage, or other nonessential features available to residents. Property managers may charge an amenity fee to provide and maintain these conveniences for renters.
A potential renter usually fills out a rental application, a document that a property owner reviews to determine if a prospect meets the necessary qualifications to rent the unit. Common information a prospect provides on an application includes their name, workplace, income, previous addresses, and references. An application may also request permission to perform a credit check on the applicant. Some applications require an administrative fee that covers the cost of processing the application, such as fees for a background check or credit check.
Arrears is a financial term that means you’ve fallen behind in your payments, which can refer to rent or any other bill. If you’re going to be late with a rent payment, it’s important to notify your property manager as early as possible and discuss your circumstances so you can make arrangements to get current again with your rent.
6. As-is condition
As-is condition is an agreement wherein the renter accepts the rental unit in its current condition. Any defects or necessary repairs are not taken into consideration before the new renter occupies the property. This can mean that the new renter receives the unit exactly as the previous tenant left it when they moved out.
A co-signer is a person who signs the lease as a secondary signer who won’t live in the unit. Even though the co-signer won’t live there, the lease is a legal agreement stating that they’ll be responsible for paying the rent if the renter falls behind. A property manager may request a co-signer if a tenant has no rental references or poor credit history.
Co-tenants are two individuals who both sign one rental lease, agreeing that both will live in the unit and share responsibility for renting the apartment. Both co-tenants are equally responsible for the unit, including following all clauses on the lease agreement. This arrangement may help renters with low credit scores qualify for a lease.
9. Credit bureau
Credit bureaus collect data on consumers who use credit.
10. Credit report
A credit report is a copy of your credit history created by a credit bureau. Property owners may request a credit report on prospective renters to determine their creditworthiness. Maintaining a good credit score can help you get approved to rent an apartment. Consumers can receive a free annual credit report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. Checking your credit report regularly, at least every year or two, can you help monitor incorrect or outdated information on your credit report.
Rules for decorating rental units vary widely. Check your lease for your unit’s guidelines because you might lose your security deposit if you violate the rules of your rental agreement. Many online resources share creative ways to decorate apartments without painting or making holes in the walls.
12. Detached house
A detached house is a house on a property that doesn’t share walls with another building. Detached houses may be rental units on the same property as the landlord’s house.
An eviction is a legal process where a property manager formally ends a lease early and asks a tenant to vacate the unit. Eviction usually results from breaking conditions of the lease, such as failing to pay rent or illegally subleasing the rental unit.
14. Extended absence
Property managers might set a minimum number of days you can be away from your unit before you must inform them of your intentions to travel. Generally, this is a precautionary measure so the manager knows when a unit may be vacant for several consecutive days.
15. Fixed-term lease
A fixed-term lease identifies a specific time period, often 12 months, that the renter agrees to rent the unit.
16. Grace period
A grace period is the amount of time after the rent due date to pay without accruing a late fee. The lease specifies the date the rent is due, whether a grace period exists, and any penalties or late fees for paying rent after the deadline.
A guarantor is a third party who does not live in the apartment but is legally responsible for paying rent if the renter doesn’t pay. Renters with poor credit may be able to rent an apartment if a guarantor signs the lease with the tenant.
A guest is a temporary visitor to the rental unit. Guests must follow the terms of your lease, such as respecting quiet hours in the apartment complex or parking space regulations.
A landlord is a person or company who owns and rents houses or apartments to tenants. Landlords are also called lessors or property owners.
20. Lease agreement
A lease agreement or lease is a legal contract between a property owner and a renter. The lease agreement states the rent amount, the term of the lease, and other regulations and responsibilities regarding the rental terms. A lease is also called a tenancy or rental agreement.
21. Lease commencement date
The lease commencement date is the date the lease legally begins. This is the day the renter is able to move into the unit and take over possession.
22. Lessee and lessor
A lessee is a renter or tenant, and a lessor is a property owner. A rental lease agreement often specifies the lessee and the lessor at the beginning of the document, then uses the terms “lessee” and “lessor” to identify the parties involved in the lease throughout the body of the form.
A lien is a property owner’s right to keep possession of the personal property of a renter who is behind on their rent. The ability for a property owner to have a lien on personal property depends on state and local regulations.
24. Mixed-use building
A mixed-use building contains apartments and retail or office space, such as when the ground level is a business and the floors above are apartments. Some renters enjoy the unique benefits of living above a store or business.
25. Month-to-month lease
A month-to-month lease is an agreement for renting one month at a time. The lease automatically renews at the month’s end unless each party cancels the agreement.
26. Net monthly income
Net monthly income is the amount of an individual’s take-home pay after taxes. Property owners may want to know a prospect’s net monthly income to qualify them for renting a property. A rent calculator like Zumper’s can help you determine how much rent you can afford.
27. Notice of termination for cause
Notice of termination for cause is a formal notice a property owner gives to a tenant when they are terminating a lease and starting the eviction process due to a violation of the rental agreement. Usually, a renter has a set amount of time to fix the problem, such as by paying back rent or getting rid of a pet that violates the lease.
28. Notice to vacate
When a renter breaks a lease or has a month-to-month lease, they must provide a notice to vacate letter to the property owner. This gives the property manager time to rent the apartment, knowing you’ll be vacating the premises. The lease should specify the time frame wherein you need to notify your landlord you’re moving, which is usually 30 or 60 days. If you don’t follow the terms of the lease with notice to vacate, you may be subject to a penalty.
Parking specifications are usually stated in a lease. Renters may have an assigned parking spot or may have to display a parking permit on their vehicle. An apartment complex can have specific regulations about parking in its parking lot.
30. Pet policy
A lease often has a pet policy that clarifies whether or not tenants may have pets and details any rules, pet fees or deposits, or other regulations regarding bringing pets into the rental unit.
31. Property manager
Property managers can be the landlord, the property owner, or a separate company hired by the property owner to oversee the renting and management of the rental units.
Prorated rent means the tenant doesn’t occupy the unit for a full month and only pays for the number of days they are in the unit.
A reference is a friend or associate of the renter who vouches for a prospective renter’s character or reliability. Most rental applications request one or more references.
Renewal refers to a renter continuing the lease when the initial term ends. Renters may have the option to renew for the original term or temporarily rent month-to-month if they plan to move out.
Rent is the amount of money you agree to pay on a consistent basis, usually monthly, to live in an apartment.
A renter is a person named on a lease who lives in a rental unit. A renter is also called a tenant or a lessee.
37. Renters insurance
If damage happens to a property, the property owner’s insurance covers the structure. As a renter, your items aren’t protected by their insurance. Renters insurance covers potential damage to your property in case of damage from hazards such as fire, theft, or water.
38. Renter rights
Like property owners, renters also have rights protected by law. Spend time researching your rights as a renter before moving into your first apartment.
39. Rent increase
Leases usually contain information regarding annual rent increases, such as when the lease renews. They also often have a standard disclaimer stating the owner has the right to increase rent without notice.
A roommate is a person who shares an apartment with you. Finding a roommate can be a useful way to afford an apartment when you’re on a tight budget.
Potential landlords might perform a screening on rental prospects, such as a background check, to qualify them as an ideal renter. This might also include a credit check or rental history.
42. Security deposit
A security deposit is money given to a property owner before a renter starts tenancy. The security deposit is frequently the last month’s rent. When the renter moves out, the property owner might keep part of the security deposit for damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.
A sublease occurs when a renter rents out a unit to somebody else. The lease agreement generally indicates whether a renter can sublease the unit. If you sublease your apartment to another person, it’s important to understand that because your name is on the lease, you are the one responsible for any damage to the property.
44. Term of lease
The term of the lease clarifies the length of the rental agreement and is frequently for a period of one year, although sometimes the term is for a certain number of months. This is also called the rental term or the tenancy period. It usually also states the date the renter can take possession of the rental property. Short-term lease options may be available upon request, so if there’s a reason you might need a lease for less than a year, check with the property owner when you look for an apartment.
Termination refers to ending the rental agreement. The landlord or the renter may decide to terminate a lease for many various reasons. A renter would prepare a termination of lease letter and submit it to the property manager when they decide they are moving from a property since lease agreements usually specify written notification is necessary to terminate the lease.
A townhouse is a small house connected to a row of other houses. It shares at least one wall if it’s an end unit, and often two if it’s one of the inner units, with another house.
A unit refers to an individual rental property, such as a house, a townhouse, or an apartment. A unit can have one tenant, or two or more renters, as specified on the lease.
Utilities might include heat, electricity, water, garbage service, cable, and internet. Some rental properties include utilities or partial utilities in the rent. It’s important to know what utilities the renter is responsible for before signing a lease agreement. When you calculate your monthly expenses, you’ll have to add the cost of utilities to your bills. Some utilities, such as air conditioning or heat, may fluctuate with the seasons and be less predictable than standard monthly charges, such as cable service.
49. Warranty of habitability
Warranty of habitability refers to the property manager’s obligation to provide renters with units fit for human living. In other words, the rental must be safe and habitable. The warranty of habitability guidelines vary by state, so research your state’s housing codes if you have any concerns about the local regulations.
50. Wear and Tear
Wear and tear is a phrase used in a lease agreement that indicates the standard and usual decline in the condition of a property over time. Normal wear and tear doesn’t include damage from accidents or negligence, such as gouges in woodwork or permanent stains on carpeting. Wear and tear indicate damage to a property that won’t result in additional payment from a renter upon moving out.
Familiarizing yourself with these rental terms before you start your apartment search can help you understand clearly what’s necessary to find your ideal place to live.
Title: Glossary for Renters: 50 Key Terms To Help With Your Apartment Search | Zumper.com
Meta: Refer to these 50 common rental terms to understand the wording of a lease agreement, find a property that meets your needs, and simplify your apartment search.