Lease and Sublease

What is a lease?

A lease is a legally binding CONTRACT between the landlord and tenant to transfer possession of property to the tenant for a certain period of time in exchange for rent payments. Make sure you have read and understand every provision of your lease before you sign it. Leases are binding contracts and are difficult to break once signed.

Important Things to Look For In A Lease

Standard clauses in a lease include:

  • Names and addresses of all parties involved.
  • The amount of rent, when its due, and late fees.
  • The beginning and ending dates of the lease.
  • The amount of the security deposit.
  • Who is responsible for paying utilities (water, electricity, gas, phone, etc.).
  • Whether or not pets are permitted.
  • Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance (who replaces air filters).
  • Who is responsible for trash disposal and yard maintenance.



Especially the small print.

It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as outlined in a lease agreement. Have a parent or other responsible person read it. It is not recommended that you sign a lease on an apartment that is under construction unless you fully understand and accept the risk involved.

What is a rental agreement?

A rental agreement is merely a page of information about you, (including your financial status), which the landlord uses to decide whether or not he/she wants to rent to you. However, the landlord is prohibited from discriminating against you on the basis of race, sex, religion or ethnic origin. When filling out a rental application, you may be required to pay the landlord a fee for running a credit check on you. Read the application carefully to ensure that it does not place any obligation on you if you decide not to rent.

What is an agreement to hold a unit?

While you are looking for a place to live in the Fall, you may be able to sign an agreement and pay a deposit to hold the unit until Fall. Make sure you know if this agreement is an actual lease or only an agreement to hold the unit. Examine a blank copy of the lease before you sign the holding agreement, so you will know what you should expect to sign in the Fall. You should insist that a holding agreement be in writing. Make a copy of the “hold” check and a copy of the hold agreement for your records.

Important Terms To Know
  1. Joint and several liability means any one roommate can be held responsible for the actions of any or all other roommates.
    • Any or all roommates can be sued to recover the damage done by one roommate.
    • All roommates can be evicted if one roommate fails to pay the rent.
    • If one roommate moves out, the total monthly rent remains the same, and the remaining roommates are responsible for paying it.
  2. Separate or Individual Leases have a relationship comparable to that of tenants who live in separate apartments in the same building.
    • If a roommate leaves, the other roommates are not required to make up the departed roommate’s rent payment.
    • The landlord may evict one roommate without evicting all roommates.
    • Generally, if one roommate moves out, the landlord can fill that space without consulting the remaining roommates.
  3. Guarantor is someone who signs the lease with you to guarantee payment. If you fail to pay your rent, the guarantor will be legally responsible for paying it.

Breaking the Lease

If you need to move or vacate the premises before your lease is up, it would be wise to speak with the landlord. It may be possible for you to negotiate with the property owner/manager to terminate the lease or sublet the apartment. You should not think that you will only forfeit your security deposit if you move out early. According to the terms of the lease, you are liable for the rent for the remaining months on the lease.

There are some legitimate reasons for leaving before your lease expires. Some examples include: the apartment has been damaged by fire or the landlord is not in compliance with the rental agreement. You may consider seeking legal advice before giving notice.

Points to consider if you must break your lease:

  • Talk to your landlord. He/She may have another tenant ready to move in and allow that person to take over your lease.
  • Send a certified letter to the landlord giving notice that you intend to break your lease and the date you will be vacating the apartment.
  • In some cases, the landlord may want to be compensated for the trouble of re-renting the unit.
  • If you are able to negotiate an amicable lease breaking, you and the landlord should sign a written statement of release.
  • If you are unable to obtain a written release and your lease permits you to sublease, place an advertisement in the classified section of the George-Anne.


Subleasing occurs when a tenant rents the apartment to a third party (subtenant). The subtenant is responsible to the tenant for performing all obligations set forth in the sublease agreement. This means that finding a subtenant does not release you from your obligations under the original lease. For example, if the subtenant does not pay the rent, you remain responsible for the amount due. Contact the management office before you negotiate a sublease agreement. You must be sure that you are entitled to do so under your lease. Some management companies may assist you in subleasing the rental property.

Be a Responsible Tenant

It is important for you to know your responsibilities as a tenant. If you are not familiar with your responsibilities, you may find yourself unintentionally breaking the lease agreement.

  • Pay your rent on time.
  • Respect the property. Remember you are responsible for any damage done to the property by you or your guests.
  • Obey the law and landlord rules.
  • Do not disturb the neighbors.
  • Notify the landlord of any needed repairs or maintenance. Remember to follow-up verbal requests in writing.
  • Place garbage and trash in proper containers.


Landlords usually require a security deposit at the time the lease is signed. The deposit is normally equal to one month’s rent. Remember, if you sign a lease several months in advance you might be required to submit a reservation deposit or possibly a security deposit at the time the lease is signed.

Security deposits:

  • Are normally refundable, either in full or in part depending on the condition of your unit at move-out. Your responsibilities and requirements for the return of the deposit should be clearly stated in your lease.
  • May not be the same as the last month’s rent and usually may not be applied to rent due under the lease terms.

Some complexes charge a cleaning or redecorating fee in addition to the security deposit. Generally, these fees are non-refundable. If the fee is non-refundable, it must be stated as such in the lease.

Read your lease carefully and if it does not say, “refundable” or “non-refundable” for the deposits or cleaning charges, ask for clarification in writing as part of the lease agreement.

Moving In and Out

Last updated: 7/7/2014

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