A lease is a binding legal contract between you (the tenant) and the landlord. You are given the possession of an apartment that is owned by the landlord and therefore there are specifications as to what you must do and must not do. These specifications will be stated in the lease.
Since the lease is written up by the landlord, it usually favors him/her, but changes can be made as long as you both agree upon these changes. All changes should be initialed. Once you sign the lease, you are legally bound by the terms. So do not sign anything you can’t live with. The lease should be signed by both parties.
In a university area a landlord may require that a parent co-sign the lease, even if you are over 18 years old. Anyone who signs the lease should receive a copy.
What should be included in your lease:
- The lease should identify the property to be rented. This should include the street address and apartment number. Also, it should include the names of all tenants, and state whether or not subletting is permitted
- The lease should also include the starting and ending date of the lease. Some leases may be preprinted and the landlord may simply fill in the blanks. Also
- Also included should be the information for the payment of rent. Included should be the monthly rent amount, the total amount of rent to be paid over the term of the lease, the date due, the office address to where it needs to be paid, how it should be paid (mail, in person, check, money order, etc.) and a late date after which the payment is late and violates the lease terms.
- Utilities and appliances are also described in the lease. Who pays for which utilities should be specified. Utilities for which you are responsible need to be contracted by you directly. Any appliances included should be listed.
- The lease should specify how much the security deposit is, and the name of the bank and the account number where it is being held.
- Method to terminate the agreement prior to expiration date and what, if any, charges will be imposed.
- Amenities and facilities on the premises that the tenant is entitled to use such as swimming pool, laundry, storage spaces, or parking.
- How tenant repair requests are handled and the procedures for emergency requests. Also, whether pest control is provided and how often.
What to look out for:
- Watch out for rules and regulations that may be included in your lease. This may include regulations about noise, cleaning requirements, garbage storage and disposal, security issues, smoke detectors, parties, guests, pets, parking, hallways, lights, landlord access to inspect or show the apartment to prospective tenants, and other issues. Tenants can be evicted for failing to follow the rules stated in their lease.
- Your lease also may include a use and occupancy section, which indicates that the apartment is not to be used for business and limits the number of people permitted to live there. Guests may be limited or not permitted to stay overnight or be given a key.
- Within the lease, the landlord may also have the option of accelerated rent, which is generally used as a last resort if the landlord isn’t receiving the rent regularly or completely. The landlord can demand the entire amount of the lease consideration (rent) be paid within 30 days.
- Some leases include a waiver of notices. This means the landlord does not have to give you notice prior to the termination date (you should know this date anyway), or prior to initiating legal action against you, which could be very damaging. This gives you no time to negotiate with the landlord, fix the problem or prepare your defense.
- Another potentially damaging section of the lease is a confession of judgment clause. This clause says that you, the tenant, agree to allow any attorney (including the landlord’s) to plead guilty for you. This clause requires specific wording and information.
- In a university area, a landlord also may choose to include a right-of-entry clause in the lease. This grants the landlord access to your apartment, without any notice or without you present, in order to fix something, respond to an emergency, or to show your apartment to prospective tenants. Any specifications to time, notice or reason should be listed.
A MESSAGE FROM STUDENT AFFAIRS CONCERNING "NO MORE THAN FOUR" BOSTON ZONING CODE:
As you consider your plans for housing, we believe it is important to inform you of the following:
In reviewing off-campus properties, please keep the following in mind:
- As you look for housing, work to understand the landlord’s accessibility, the upkeep and management of the apartment, and responsiveness to tenant needs. Unfortunately, with so many students in Boston, some landlords have been known to prey on students by providing substandard housing with a significant lack of responsiveness to maintenance and repair concerns.
- In the past year, the city of Boston passed a local ordinance requiring that no more than four full-time undergraduate students may live in the same apartment. In order to comply with this ordinance, it is expected that students will select housing where they need only three other roommates (at most) to meet their financial obligations for housing.
- Landlords are also expected to comply with the city ordinance limiting the housing capacity of the apartment (regardless of the number of bedrooms) to four undergraduates. There are some unscrupulous landlords who may not adhere to this ordinance. Please do not sign a lease with a landlord where more than four undergraduates live in the housing unit. If Inspectional Services Department (ISD) in the city of Boston learns of the fact that there are more than four people in the unit (even if it is agreed on with the landlord), the landlord will be required to have the unit reduced to four occupants. You could be left without housing, yet obligated to a lease with a landlord.