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Housing Rental Agreements: What to Expect

by Phoebe on 07 Sep 2018

When searching for a student apartment or that ideal private room near the university for your internship or your new job, everyone has a different idea of what’s important for their accommodation. For some, it’s all about the price and staying within a strict budget, while for others, location is absolutely crucial. However, one thing everyone will need to face at some point is the all-important rental agreement.

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Just the often-complex terminology used in a lease agreement can be overwhelming, but remember that signing a rental contract is a necessity, so it isn’t something you can avoid. In fact, never go into a verbal agreement with a landlord. The contract is put in place to protect the tenant just as much as the individual or company leasing the property.

Things can vary somewhat from country to country, but will mostly contain and require the same components.

These include:

  • Information requirements
  • Necessary documentation
  • Legal explanations
  • Your terms and rights
  • Terminating or extending a contract
  • Additional fees
  • Dictionary of terms and jargon

Most importantly, this article will help to ensure that there are no misunderstandings between you and your new landlord. So, let’s get started!

1. Make sure your name is correct

This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but landlords may inform students who are sharing an apartment that only one name is required on the lease. However, this can lead to all sorts of problems down the road.

Having one name on the rental contract means that one name will be on the tax slips and utility bills, and that one person is solely responsible for all payments. Plus, if you have a falling out with one of your roommates, things could get complicated.

Even after you move out, things can arise. Backdated tax slips or the final bill for the utilities may not arrive before you move out, and these payments would fall on the tenant whose name is on the lease.

2. Paying your rent

Of course, payments should be clearly defined in the rental agreement. Some contracts may include utilities, such as water, electricity and even Wi-Fi. However, others may only include base rent only, so specify before signing if you have any questions.

Depending on the space that is rented, it may be more expensive for a larger room, or one with a specific view. Amenities can also be a key factor.

Always check that the rental contract provides a detailed breakdown of the amount. This can be especially helpful when sharing accommodation so that the payments can be easily divided.

3. Watch out for additional fees

You can expect several different costs associated with relocating. When setting aside a budget, you may need to include:

Agency fees: If you decide to book through an agency, you will have to pay varying expensive fees. The booking fees for housing platforms are much cheaper.

Deposits: Many landlords will require that one or two months of rent be paid for security, or a deposit might be requested to protect furnishings or appliances.

Online platform fees: If you are utilizing an online platform, the amount of the fees will be stated upfront, so that there aren’t any surprises. For example, with all-inclusive housing platforms like HousingAnywhere, the booking fee will be 25% of the first month’s rent. However, some other online platforms may charge individual fees to contact advertisers and landlords. So, be sure that the platform offers all-inclusive fees if you hope to avoid additional costs.

Always be sure that these amounts are clearly listed in your lease agreement, as well as the due dates and if they are refundable and under what conditions.

4. Lease agreement terms

A rental agreement will also include information about what can and cannot be done to the property. For example, if you’re renting an unfurnished apartment and are hoping to hang art or paint the kitchen, be sure that your rental agreement allows for this, or you won’t get your security deposit back.

Then there are typically other general restrictions, such as no smoking or not allowing pets.

5. Take inventory of the accommodation

Before you move in, photos must be taken of everything in the house, and it must all be inventoried. Additionally, if there is any damage, it will also be noted here. Throughout your stay, if you notice anything that isn’t listed, notify the landlord or agency right away in writing so that it can be included.

Also, try to keep up with any damages done to the property throughout your lease and how they occur so that you can easily decide how payment will be made for the repairs.

6. Restrictions on behavior

Even though you will be making the apartment or room your home, there will still be expectations when it comes to your behavior. See that they are defined in the lease agreement.

While this can certainly refer to ensuring that there are no loud parties raging on the weekends, it can also include particular chores that must be done daily to ensure the upkeep of the property. If not carried out, this can be a cause for eviction.

7. Two basic types of rental contracts

If you’re going to be staying for a specific time with a specific end date, you will typically sign a fixed-period contract. If your plans aren’t set in stone, you’ll more than likely have an indefinite contract.

Fixed-period rental agreements include:

  • The end date of the rental agreement
  • No early contract terminations
  • Penalties if the landlord agrees to end the contract early

Indefinite rental contracts include:

  • No end date
  • The contract may be terminated by the landlord if there are legal reasons
  • The time of notification must be noted in your rental agreement - usually between one and three months

8. What to expect from your rights and duties

The rental contract should detail everything that is expected of you as a tenant, including your duties in the agreement. However, it should also include your rights as a tenant, so that you know if what you’re experiencing is within the grounds of your lease contract.

Tenants’ rights

  • The property must be ready and available at the start of the contract
  • Housing must be in a livable condition
  • The property must be handed over and accepted in person
  • Landlords must make any necessary repairs to the apartment or room
  • Must receive a notification before the landlord enters the property
  • Must be given a reason to vacate and with sufficient time

Tenants’ duties

  • Must pay the agreed rental fees at the required time
  • Must adhere to all rules
  • Pay for any damages made to the property
  • Give a valid reason and advance notification to leave the property

9. Rental agreement terms and jargon

Deposit: The deposit is a predetermined amount of money that the tenant will provide to the landlord, who will hold the money to utilize if any damages are made to the property.

Inventory: The inventory will include a list of everything that is included within the room or apartment.

Break clause/termination clauses: These terms and conditions will apply to the ways in which the tenant can break the lease or end the rental agreement early.

Landlord: A landlord is the individual, company or agency from which a tenant rents the property. They may also manage the property themselves, or provide an agent who will be the tenant’s contact for repairs, etc.

Lettings agency: A letting agency can be seen as an ambassador between the landlord and the tenant. They can require fees for assisting with paperwork or for keeping the deposit during the rental.

Tenant: The tenant is the individual or group of people who will be renting the property.

Ground rent: Ground rent is the money that is collected by the landlord and then paid to the landowner. A portion of your rent will be applied to ground rent; you can see this in the breakdown of your rental fees.

Handover: A handover is what occurs when the landlord “hands over” the room or apartment to the tenant or group of tenants, including inventory.

Maintenance charges: This charge is an additional fee that the tenant(s) must pay, along with the rent. For example, if you have a garden, then a maintenance fee to keep the garden in good condition might be required by the tenant.

Notice period: A notice period is a time after a notice for vacation has been given, allowing the landlord to find new tenants for the room or apartment, or when a landlord requests that the tenants vacate the property.

Premises: A premises can include an apartment, a house, a parcel of land or anything else which can be defined as a location.

Sublet: Subletting an accommodation means that the original tenant is allowing another tenant to lease the property for a determined amount of time, with the original tenant responsible for all payments. Additionally, subletting is only allowed with the expressed consent of the landlord, and it is illegal for the rental price to be higher than the original amount set by the landlord.

A lot goes into finding the right accommodation and ensuring that the rental agreement includes all of the necessary components. Just be sure to cover all of the basics, read all of the fine print and be prepared to enjoy your new home!

by Phoebe on 07 Sep 2018
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