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Living in a Rental

When you're living in an apartment rental, even if you didn't sign a written lease, you and your landlord each have certain responsibilities.


So you started your first lease on a rental apartment—or your 10th, or 20th. Either way, congratulations! Hopefully the rest will be smooth sailing, but certain things do tend to come up while you're living in an apartment. When they do, the best way to save time and get what you want is to be prepared.

First of all—what is a lease?

A lease is a legal agreement that gives you the right to live somewhere for a certain length of time at a certain rental rate. Lawyers calls this right a "leasehold interest," and it's an asset just like any other asset. It's worth money, and while it's yours you can trade it for economic value.

In everyday language, “leases” and “leasing” are terms that are usually used for longer-term commitments, whereas the word “rental” is saved for shorter-term stays. For most people, the only benefit of having a lease versus just living in a rental as a tenant is that a lease guarantees that your rent won't increase for the entire period of the contract. You still have tenants' rights, even if you don't have a lease.

What are your responsibilities as a tenant?

As a tenant, you have certain responsibilities. If you don't do these things, you'll either make your landlord unhappy or warrant an eviction process.

Generally, you're expected to keep the property in the same condition as when you moved in, let the owner or manager know if something serious is wrong, pay the rent on time each month, and move out when you're asked (as long as you're given appropriate notice).

What are your landlord's responsibilities?

Your landlord's first and foremost responsibility is to keep your apartment safe and habitable. This means that you can expect and demand that your apartment provide you with basic shelter and services like heat or hot water.

There are many other responsibilities—large and small—that your landlord is obligated to handle:

Next steps

We've gathered as many tips and tricks as we could and tried to answer pretty much any question a renter could have while they're living in an apartment, and we've done it for most states in the U.S.!


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