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!