Leases – Renting Essentials

Office of Housing Stability offers information for Boston students

What you need when applying for an apartment

  • Checks, not cash
  • Photo identification including birth date
  • Social Security Number (SSN) usually required by landlord
  • University enrollment verification, letter of acceptance
  • Current and former landlords’ contact information
  • Current and former employers’ contact information
  • Guarantor/co-signer, a US citizen or permanent resident, must provide either bank statement or pay stub

International Students need to have

  • Copy of passport/visa
  • I-20
  • Social Security Number (SSN) if you have one
  • Proof of good credit through current bank statement or letter from your banker
  • BU school acceptance
  • Former landlord letter if possible
  • Guarantor/co-signer, a US citizen or permanent resident, must provide either bank statement or pay stub
The Apartment Application
  • With the application you will be required to pay for processing a credit check. Ask what this fee is for and if it is refundable prior to paying. If the application is rejected the cost of credit check is usually not refunded.
  • Always request a dated receipt for the amount of application fee. NO CASH PLEASE.
  • Landlord may require you to give sensitive information to apply for an apartment such as social security number, bank account statements,  current and prior landlord and employer information, all necessary for a credit and background check.
  • A guarantor/co-signer may be required for the lease. They must be US citizens or permanent residents, credit worthy and have bank statement or pay stub ready to show they can pay the rent if you cannot.
  • There will be a credit check of both applicant and guarantor/co-signer.

Questions to ask before you sign a lease

  • What funds are requested at lease signing?

First month’s rent, last month’s rent and security deposit equal to not more than one month’s rent could be required. (The security deposit will be in a separate interest bearing account and that interest will be paid to the tenant annually. The last month’s rent will earn interest but will not be in a separate account. Interest will be paid annually.)

  • How do I protect the security deposit ?

On entering the apartment, check out the condition of the unit. Complete the Apartment Condition Statement within 10 days of moving in,  support the Condition Statement with pictures.  Ask the landlord to define normal apartment wear and usage.

  • Will there be a key charge or lock change fee?

Often a key deposit is charged and when all keys are returned it is refunded.  To know the locks have been changed,  request a lock change. This service may be offered for a fee and is well worth the expense.

  • Will I be required to pay a portion of the re-inspection fee?  How will I know that the unit has been reinspected?

In most cases landlords are required to pay, by law, to have their rental units inspected for compliance with the State Sanitary Code soon before or after they are re-rented to new occupants.  After the landlord has paid the city, the landlord may in turn charge tenants for up to 50% of the inspection fee or the filing fee they paid, with the charge spread equally over 12 months.  Check City of Boston Inspectional Services Department or call 617-635-5300.

Be Aware of Scams!

While rare, BU students have fallen prey to nefarious scammers. International students are especially targeted for such scams. However, all students should be aware of the possible signs of a housing scam.

BU Today, in collaboration with BU Police, provides  troubleshooting tools about how to avoid housing scams.

If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Contact Housing Resources ( if you have any concerns that you encountered a housing scam.

The Lease

A lease is a binding legal contract between you (the tenant) and the property owner (the landlord).  It allows the tenant to live in the apartment under certain conditions for a specific period of time.  A lease protects the tenant and the landlord;  both are legally obligated to fulfill all the terms of the lease.

The lease (a contract) states the terms of the contract including rental price, all tenants by name, the time period that you will reside in the apartment. Since the lease is offered by the landlord, it usually favors the landlord, but changes can be made as long as you both agree, changes are initialed and dated by both tenant and landlord. When you sign a lease, you are obligated to pay the landlord monthly for the duration of the lease whether you live there or not.

It is strongly suggested that you carefully read and understand everything in the lease before you sign.  Ask questions about items you do not understand.

Rental Housing Association (RHA) Lease is the most common lease used by landlords. Please review Commonly Used Lease and Rental Terms.

Your lease must

  • identify the property rented, the street address, apartment number,  names of all tenants, and if subletting is permitted
  • state the term starting and ending dates. Most leases are for one year although terms may vary; self-renewing leases automatically renew so if  notice is not given by a certain date the lease renews for another year.
  • clearly explain the process of the payment of rent: monthly rent amount, total rent paid over the term of the lease, the date rent due, the address of where it must be paid, how it should be paid (mail, in person, check (one or several), money order etc.) and a date after which payment is considered late and violates the terms of the lease.  Pay rent by check, NOT CASH. Specify on back of the check ” for rent payment only”, the memo note on front is not legally binding. If you must use cash, get a dated receipt.
  • specify which utilities are paid by landlord; utilities not covered by the rent will be contracted directly by the tenant. Be sure you know what is included in the rent, and what is not included.
  • list all appliances in the unit.
  • state the amount of the security deposit paid, the bank and account number where it is deposited.
  • state the process as to how to terminate the lease prior to the expiration date, and financial penalties if any for early termination.
  • specify what amenities are available for tenants use such as washer/dryer, parking, swimming pool, etc.
  • explain how repairs and problems such as pest control handled,who to call. Emergency procedures should be clear.
  • what is permitted such as pictures be hung on the walls, or types of improvements to be made.
  • list any specific rules and regulations relating to noise, garbage disposal, pets, guests, smoke detectors, storage, hallways and lights.
  • clearly state the landlord’s Right of Entry, under what circumstances your landlord is allowed to enter the apartment.
  • explain that the landlord is required to give you a fully signed copy of the lease within 30 days of your signing the lease or be fined. All signors on the lease should have a copy.
  • note your notice date, the deadline for notifying the landlord that you are moving out.
  • inform you as to procedure for requesting repairs to the unit.  Repairs promised at lease signing should be written into the lease before you sign. Also,the lease will state what the landlord will or will not provide regarding paint and supplies for maintenance work performed by the tenant.
  • not be signed with any blank spaces.
  • explain that within 10 days after your lease begins, landlord provides the tenant with an Apartment Condition Statement, giving you 15 days to sign the statement if you agree.  Should you dispute anything in the statement of condition, you have 15 days to notify the landlord in writing of concerns by submitting a separate list of damages. Take pictures to support the document. Landlord must inform the  tenant that failure to resubmit may be viewed as the tenant’s  agreement of completeness. The Apartment Condition Statement must include a comprehensive list of existing damage to your apartment, including sanitary and building codes violations if any.  Landlord then has 15 days to sign off on tenant’s list of damages or send a clear statement of disagreement to the tenant.