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How to rent a house

Updated on October 4, 2010

how to rent a house

Want to rent a home or apartment? You make an agreement or lease to pay the landlord a certain sum of money for the temporary use of the property. The person that lives in the house or apartment and pays the rent is called the tenant.


[The terms of a lease can be negotiated before you sign it. A lease is a rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant that gives the tenant the right to occupy the property for a specified length of time in exchange for rent payments.. A tenant is obligated to pay rent and a landlord cannot rent the property to anyone else during the lease period.]

As with any contract, the rental agreement should be in writing to avoid misunderstandings and should contain all of the terms agreed to by the parties. The following are the basic items that should be included in a property rental lease:

Names of tenants

Address of the property being rented

Contact information for the landlord, which may be an individual or a property management company

Amount of rent and how often it is paid.

Amount of the security deposit.

Start date and end date of the lease term.

Penalties for late payments.

Amount of notice required before either the landlord or the tenant can cancel the lease.

Who is responsible for utility charges, upkeep, repairs or alterations?

The signatures of all tenants and the landlord.

Security Deposits

[A security deposit is money that the tenant pays to the landlord to protect the landlord in case the tenant damages the property or fails to pay rent. Landlords can use the deposit to cover unpaid rent and perform needed repairs or cleaning that result from more than normal use. Usually the tenant pays the security deposit before moving in. All states allow landlords to collect a security deposit when the tenant moves in, but some states limit the amount landlords can charge. Many states require landlords to put deposits in a separate account, and some require landlords to pay tenants interest on deposits.]

You can protect your security deposit by using a move-in checklist, which is usually provided by the landlord, and by taking pictures of the condition of the property when you move in. At the end of the lease term, you should inspect the property with your landlord, and note on a move-out checklist any deductions for repairs and cleaning to be taken from your security deposit.


An eviction is a legal proceeding where a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without a proper reason and notice. The eviction rules vary by state.

In most areas the following are considered proper reasons for evicting a tenant:

Nonpayment of rent

Refusal by a tenant to leave after the lease has expired

Violations of the lease

Renters Insurance

Although a tenant does not have an obligation to buy renters insurance, unless the rental agreement requires it, it is a good idea to have renters insurance to protect personal property. The insurance policy that the landlord may have does not cover a tenant's possessions inside of the apartment or house. A renter's insurance policy will cover such items as furniture, clothing or electronic equipment in case of fire, theft, vandalism or weather damage. Renter's insurance also provides coverage for bodily injury or property damage in case an accident occurs at your rental home, such as a visitor slipping on a wet floor and breaking a bone.

Fair Housing

Landlords cannot discriminate when choosing tenants based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, disability or family status. It is also illegal for landlords to harass, intimidate, threaten, interfere with, or evict a tenant because of the same factors. It is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of renting housing or to deny housing to a renter because of a disability of the renter, or a disability of an individual associated with the renter, such as a family member.

All the states and many cities have enacted fair housing laws as well. Some local laws forbid discrimination against unmarried persons, children, homosexuals, disabled persons or others.


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