Office of Residence Life

Understanding your lease

Since your lease is a contract, it must have all the essentials of a contract in order to be legally binding. Specifically, you, as the tenant, must be at least 18 years of age, and the lease must, at a minimum, identify the names of both the landlord and the tenant, the rent due per month, the address of the premises, and the duration of the rental term. A standard lease form is included in the Appendix.

The major advantages of signing a lease are that the rent is set for the duration of the lease, and the landlord cannot evict you or raise the rent during that time period without a reason allowed for in the lease. On the other hand, the major disadvantage of a lease is that you are committed to paying rent for each month of the lease period, and it could be very difficult or expensive to break the lease if you decide to move out before the lease period is up.

Landlords and tenants can -- and should -- negotiate almost anything in a lease. Unfortunately, most landlords tend to use leases that are sold in mass quantities at legal supply stores, and which were written to intimidate tenants. Such leases often have clauses -- such as those which shift responsibility for repairs from the landlord to the tenant, or which deny tenants the right to a civil court proceeding for eviction -- that are illegal and thus unenforceable under New York State law. However, keep in mind that even if a lease has numerous illegal clauses, the main part of the lease, such as the duration and rent per month, is still binding.

If you do sign a lease, be sure to sign two copies and keep one -- with both the landlord's and your signature and the date -- for your own records. If you have several roommates who also sign a lease, remember that the landlord can hold any one of the roommates liable for the entire lease. Consult with Rensselaer's Student Legal Services for more specifics about leases.

Most landlords who rent to Rensselaer students require one-year leases that run from June 1 to May 31.

Month-to-month rentals

Tenants who do not have leases and who pay rent on a monthly basis are called month-to-month tenants. You would also become a "month-to-month tenant" if you had a lease that expired and was not renewed, but you continued to rent the same apartment.

Either you or your landlord may end a month-to-month tenancy by giving at least one 30-day rental month notice. For example, if the rental period is from the first day of each month to the last day of the month, notice must be given by May 31 that the rental is being terminated on June 30. This 30-day notice must be given for any major change in the month-to-month tenancy, such as a rent increase). Neither party is required to give any explanation or reason for the change or termination of the tenancy.

Month-to-month rentals, while very often verbal arrangements, are still binding. However, written month-to-month agreements and written notices are helpful in clarifying when notice was given and what the notice was regarding.

Last modified: Apr 29, 2013