Common Lease and Rental Terms

The 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 (lessee) and the landlord (lessor);  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, number of tenants and their names, and 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 and these 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 the landlord, rental agent, our office or Office of Housing Stability questions about items you do not understand.


refer to conveniences or enjoyment offered, usually at no additional cost to the tenant, such as central air conditioning, internet and cable, in-unit washer and dryer, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and a swimming pool.  Apartment buildings have different offerings.


gas or electric cooking stoves are required; refrigerators are often provided but are not required. Occasionally there are window air conditioners.

Dates of the Lease

the time frame during which you are legally authorized to live in and obligated to pay rent for the apartment. The lease maybe signed on one date, and begin on a subsequent date, refereed to as the lease commencement date.

Fuel and Tax Escalation Clauses

are written into the lease to protect the landlord from the increased cost of fuel and/or taxes during the lease period; the tenant pays a predetermined percentage of the increase.

Furnished Apartment

contain some items of furniture, rather than requiring you to supply all furniture: typically a bed, nightstand, desk, chair, dresser and lamp.The common area of the apartment will have sofa, coffee and/or end tables, dining table and chairs.  Apartment standards, furnished or not, are a stove, oven, microwave, and most offer a refrigerator. These kitchen appliances will be listed in the lease.  Items not included:  dishware, flatware, pots and pans, all linens and bed coverings, all cleaning supplies.  You will need to purchase those items.

Guarantor or Co-signer

is a US citizen or permanent resident with a good credit history and an income capable of paying your rent should you default (unable to pay) on your lease. Many landlords require guarantors or co-signors on the lease for international students, students with poor credit history or students who are renting an apartment beyond what they can afford. Some landlords and property managers require guarantors of all students, whether they are undergraduate, graduate, US citizens or permanent residents. BU Real Estate, Boston University owned and managed properties,  do not require co-signers for any graduate student signing a lease for one of their apartments.

Landlord Right of Entry

specifies under what circumstances your landlord is allowed to enter the apartment.


is the date by which you must notify the landlord whether you are moving out or continuing in the unit.


if it is available, its location, restrictions and additional costs, if any, will be stated in the lease.


may or may not be allowed. Lease will state which if any are permitted.


is the date you agree to renew your lease for one year.


if you know of them prior to signing, must be written into the lease.

Security Deposit

is an amount of money equal to not more than the cost of one month’s rent.  The security deposit protects the landlord from the possibility of future damages or default on the lease. You pay the landlord the security deposit when signing the lease. Your deposit is returned to you within 30 days of move out, or applied to charges for damages incurred. To help determine the apartment condition at the start of the lease, Apartment Condition Statement is agreed on by the tenant and accepted by the landlord.

Short-Term Lease

is a rental agreement that lasts for less than one year.  Rental rates for short-term housing are more expensive than standard one year lease term. A landlord may require a security deposit as well.

Social Security Number

(SSN) is a nine digit identification number issued by the United States (US)  Social Security Administration to US citizens, permanent residents, and temporary working residents.  The primary purpose of a SSN is to track an individual for tax purposes.  It is a unique, nine digit number assigned upon application to an individual by the U.S. government.  Social Security Number is not a national I.D. number.


is when an apartment is rented prior to the end of the lease of the original tenant, to someone for the remainder of the lease term. Caution. Many leases do not allow sublets as you are renting from the renter, not the owner. Most leases require the landlord’s permission to sublet an  apartment.


are the resources supplied by a regulated industry to consumers for a fee.  Common apartment utilities are electricity, phone, cable TV, internet service, fuel and natural gas.  If the utility is not included in the rent, you will need to set up service with the utility in your name. Water consumption is a landlord expense unless the apartment is separately metered for water usage. This is not common.