House or Apartment Leasing 

 You might be looking at signing your first lease for a house or apartment—congratulations! This is a big step! However, there are some things you should be aware of BEFORE you sign a lease.

What is a lease? 

A lease is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant (you). A lease allows the tenant to live/rent the landlord’s property for a specific period of time in return for reoccurring payments. The payments for a lease are usually monthly.

**Legally binding: when you sign a lease, you are making a legal agreement in writing to pay the landlord the monthly fees and follow the rules specified on the lease agreement.

What is included in a lease?

Every lease is a little bit different. You must read CAREFULLY before you sign anything. Once you sign, you are legally bound to follow the rules of the lease. The lease will usually include:

  • How much you are expected to pay each month
  • How long the lease lasts
  • What appliances and/or furniture come with the home/apartment (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, living room furniture, bedroom furniture, washer/dryer, etc.)
  • Rules (pets, wall decoration instructions, etc.)
  • Utilities (water, gas, electric, etc.) and if they are included or if you are expected to pay them separately

 

What should I do before signing a lease?

There are a few steps you should take before you settle on a home or apartment. They are:

  • Search the properties online or in the newspaper. You can usually find out information like cost, how many bedrooms/bathrooms, general information, parking information, who the landlord/rental company is, etc. If you know someone who has previously rented from this business, ask them about their experience!
  • Craigslist (Lincoln or Omaha)
  • Facebook groups
  • Research the landlord/company and look for reviews. This can give you background information on whether or not they are a reliable company/person to rent from.
  • Contact the landlord/rental company and ask for a tour. You can drive by the location to check out the neighborhood as well. You can exchange email or phone number with the landlord/rental company to set up the tour. They will walk you through the property. If you have questions, ASK!
  • Read the lease CAREFULLY before signing anything. Make sure you ask questions about things you do not understand.
  • Ask about: pet policy, security deposits, late fees (if rent is not paid on time), when rent is due, utilities, etc.
  • Consider: Completing a Move in Checklist with your Landlord

What is a rental application/what is on it?

A rental application is what you will fill out after you decide you are interested in the home/apartment. This gives the landlord or company background information on you and your roommates. This could be some of the information:

  • Your name and age
  • Social security number
  • Contact information (phone number, email address, etc.)
  • Your current address and how long you’ve lived there
  • They might also ask your reason for moving!
  • Your vehicle information (if you have one) for parking reasons
  • Previous addresses
  • Your job (if you have one)
  • How long you’ve worked there
  • Your employer’s information
  • Any other sources of income + about how much you make a month
  • Emergency contact
  • If you have been evicted or not
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • A co-signer

What is a co-signer?

A co-signer is an additional person who can be responsible for your lease. A co-signer can be a parent, grandparent, sibling, guardian, or anyone who is willing to take on your responsibility if you are unable to. The landlord can hold your co-signer accountable if you don’t pay rent/late fees, get evicted, etc. Always let your co-signer read over your lease agreement before signing. If they have any questions or need clarification, they can talk to the landlord as well.

Can I be denied if I have a juvenile record? 

Just like employers, landlords can see your juvenile record if they run a background check on you.  It may be a factor in deciding not to rent to you.  Generally, a private landlord gets to decide who they rent their property to. If you have an unsealed juvenile record and know they are running a background check, give the landlord a brief explanation. Don’t blame others—just talk about how you think you have changed and made better choices since then. You could even get a letter of recommendation from a mentor, family member, employer, etc. To avoid the possible conflict altogether, it is a good idea to make sure your record is sealed. See the flyers below to learn more about sealing your juvenile record!

 

Juvenile Reentry Flyer

Sealing Brochure

Legal Aid of Nebraska

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