What is renting?

You rent an apartment or house when you pay the owner money every month to live there. The money you pay is called “rent.” 

What is a lease?

A lease is a contract that you sign to rent an apartment or house. A lease says:

  • how much rent you will pay and when you will pay
  • how long you will rent the apartment or house
  • what happens if you do not pay on time
  • the rules you must follow
  • other costs you have to pay

A lease will say whether the costs of utilities are included in your rent. If utilities like heating and water are included, your landlord pays those bills. If utilities are not included in your rent, you must pay those bills yourself. Utilities can be expensive.

How long does a lease last?

Leases might last a year or longer. If you do not plan to stay in the apartment or house for a year, look for a short-term or month-to-month lease.

If you move out before the end date in your lease, it is called breaking your lease. You might have to pay extra money. Read your lease to see how much money you will have to pay if you move out before the lease period ends.

What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is extra money you pay one time when you rent an apartment or house. A security deposit is not part of the rent you pay every month. The security deposit might be the same amount of money as one month of rent.

The owner of the apartment or house is called a landlord. The landlord keeps your security deposit until you move out. Most of the time, you get your deposit back when you move out. But you might not get your security deposit back if you:

  • damage the apartment or house
  • leave before your lease period ends

Most states have laws about how much money a landlord can charge you for a security deposit. Most states also have laws saying when a landlord may keep your security deposit. For example, you might get part or all of your security deposit back if a landlord finds someone else to take your place when you leave.

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