What is a Lease?
A lease outlines the responsibilities and obligations of both the owner and tenants of a particular apartment or house. It details the rules by which landlords and tenants agree to live. Once signed, a lease governs what landlords and tenants can and cannot do. Should you become involved in a legal proceeding, courts will generally hold you to everything you've signed. Leases, therefore, are documents of extreme importance.
Leases are legally binding. If you and your roommates sign a lease, then you and your roommates are bound to the terms of the agreement. Moreover, you and your roommates are jointly responsible in most cases. So if your lease states that the rent is $1,000 a month, then (unless your lease states otherwise) you and your roommates are collectively responsible for the entire sum. If one person does not contribute her or his share, then all tenants on the lease are equally responsible for the missing amount. A landlord is similarly bound to the terms of the lease. Once a lease is signed, no one can be forced to accept additional provisions while the lease is in effect. Always remember to read your lease carefully and do not sign a lease with blank spaces.
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 it is due, and if there are late fees.
- The beginning and ending dates of the lease, and how much the security deposit is.
- Who is responsible for paying utilities (e.g., heat, hot water, electric, gas, phone, and cable).
- Whether or not pets are allowed.
- Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance. (Sometimes luxury items like dishwashers are not the responsibility of the landlord to fix.)
- Who is responsible for disposing of trash, cutting grass, and shoveling snow.
- Limits on persons allowed in the rental unit (living or visiting)
- Do not overcrowd a unit or occupy an illegal unit just to lower the rent.
Many leases provide for the payment of late charges if the rent is not paid by a certain day each month. This charge is supposed to cover the money lost by the landlord as a result of the late payment. Courts will usually enforce late charges if the charges are reasonable and are spelled out in writing in the lease. If your monthly income regularly does not arrive by a certain day, both tenant and landlord should pick a day that is fair to both parties.
Renewing or Terminating Your Lease
Many yearly leases, if written, will have a section explaining how you can renew the lease. A yearly lease that is not resigned automatically becomes a month-to-month lease when the written lease expires - unless you have moved out.
Leases may contain clauses detailing the conditions under which the lease can be ended prematurely. Sometimes a landlord may require only 30 or 60 days notice that you are renewing or vacating your apartment. If this is the case, it will say so in your lease. Otherwise, you are bound to the conditions of the agreement for the entire period set forth in the lease. If you signed a 12-month lease, then you and your roommates are responsible for, among other things, 12 months' worth of rent.
Very rarely can a lease be prematurely terminated. If problems occur after you sign a lease, you must correct them as a tenant of the dwelling. Roach infestation, for example, is not necessarily sufficient reason for breaking a lease. There are a number of things you can do to correct problems with your new apartment, but disregarding your written and verbal agreements is not one of them. Likewise, a landlord cannot end a lease ahead of time except under well-defined circumstances. For more information on this, please see our eviction information section.
What is a Security Deposit?
A security deposit is money that protects landlords against damage beyond normal wear and tear, provides a remedy for unpaid rent, and funds clean up of the rental, if necessary.
Almost every landlord will require you to pay a security deposit in addition to your first month’s rent before you move in. A security deposit can be anywhere from one to two times your monthly rent, and will depend on your landlord.
For more information on security deposits in Connecticut see the following websites:
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, and the tenant for performing all obligations set forth in the original lease 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 his or her rent, you remain responsible for the amount due. Before you negotiate a sublease agreement, you must be sure that you are entitled to do so under your lease.
For more information on Connecticut Landlord/Tenant Law visit http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/Law/landlord.htm
Lease & Legal Terms Glossary
Action: A legal proceeding by which one demands or enforces one’s rights in court.
Arrears: Overdue rent.
Assignment: The transfer of rights or property from one person to another.
Automatic Renewal Clause: A provision in a written lease that allows the lease to be
automatically extended upon expiration of a term or tenancy. (See also “Fixed Term Tenancy.”)
Breach: A violation of one or more provisions of a lease or contract.
Caveat Emptor: A concept meaning “buyer beware;” summarizes the rule that when renting or buying housing, one must examine and test the condition of a premises for him or herself.
Civil: A noncriminal legal matter; housing disputes are typically handled in civil courts.
Constructive Eviction: Occurs when a tenant vacates premises due to the landlord’s gross interference with his lawful enjoyment of the premise.
Contract: An agreement to do or not do a particular thing.
Damages: Usually a sum of money awarded to a landlord or a tenant as compensation for a financial loss caused by the other party.
Default: A failure to fulfill a legal obligation, particularly payment of rent.
Dispossess: Remove a person from land; eviction.
Eviction: Dispossession by process of law; turning a tenant out of possession.
Exculpatory Clause: A clause within a written lease that relieves one party from any liability resulting from a negligent of wrongful act.
Expiration: The ending of a rental agreement by its own provisions, i.e. the term of lease is over.
Fixed Term Tenancy: A tenancy of a definite duration that ends at an expiration date stated in the lease agreement. (See also “Automatic Renewal Clause.”)
Fixtures: Property that is attached or annexed to a structure, such as sinks and light sockets.
Holdover Tenancy: Occurs when a tenant retains possession of a premise after the term of lease has expired.
Housing Codes: Regulations written by a state, county, or local government which establish certain minimum standards of habitability for residential property.
Judgment: A decision or opinion of the court, usually awarding money damages.
Landlord: One who owns and leases real estate.
Lease: A contract by which one conveys the right to possession of real estate to another for a designated length of time and usually for a specified monetary rent.
Lessee: A tenant under a lease.
Lessor: One who grants a lease (landlord or his agent).
Liability: The state of being legally responsible.
Mitigate: Taking action to make damages less costly or severe.
Notice: An oral or written forewarning of a legal event.
Notice of Petition to Recover Possession of Real Property: A legal document, often
accompanying a petition to recover possession of real property, which informs the tenant of the date, time, and place of an eviction hearing.
Parties: Persons involved in a legal contract; the lessor and a lessee under a lease.
Periodic Tenancy: A tenancy that continues indefinitely until terminated by one of the parties. The month-to-month tenancy is the most commonly used periodic tenancy.
Petition to Recover Possession of Real Property: A legal document presented to the tenant at the commencement of an eviction proceeding which states the grounds for eviction and the remedy that is being sought.
Premises: The property conveyed in a lease; a building, a house, an apartment, a dwelling unit, etc.
Property: That to which a person has a legal title; real estate that one has the legal right to possess, use, and enjoy.
Quit: To leave or vacate.
Remedy: A legal means to redress grievances or to correct a wrong.
Rent: A sum agreed upon between a landlord and a tenant to be paid at fixed intervals.
Retaliatory Eviction: An attempt by a landlord to evict a tenant in retaliation for the tenant’s complaint of a housing code violation to the appropriate enforcement agency.
Right to Quiet and Peaceful Enjoyment: Generally reflects the landlord’s promise to the tenant that he/she has title to the premises that allows him/her to rent to the tenant.
Security Deposit: Money deposited by a tenant with the landlord as security for full and faithful performance by the tenant of the terms of the lease.
Sublease: A lease by a tenant to a third party, usually conveying the leased property for a
shorter term than the tenant’s term. The original tenant remains completely liable to the landlord for rent.
Summary Proceeding: The legal procedure a landlord must follow to evict a tenant.
Tenant: One who holds or possesses premises under a lease.
Tenancy: A holding of real property; also, the period of a tenant’s occupancy or possession of premises.
Term: The period of time for which a lease is granted.
Termination: The ending of a rental agreement by action of either party not resulting merely from the passage of time or from provisions of the lease limiting the term.
Utilities: Usually heat, hot and cold running water, and electricity supplied to a premises.
Warrant: A document granting authority to do something; can be used to authorize a sheriff to physically remove a tenant from a premises.
Warranty of Habitability: An implied warranty in every lease (even if it is not stated explicitly in the lease) that the condition of the premises rented is free of any defects that might harm the health, safety, or welfare of the tenants. Legal Information Is Not Legal Advice: This site provides information about the law designed to help students cope with their own legal needs. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we try to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.