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U.S. Living & Working

Renting an apartment: Applying and signing the lease

Most landlords or property managements require the tenant to fill out an application. The landlord or property management may charge a nominal fee for processing the application. This is usually around 20-30 Dollars and should cover the costs for running the credit check and other things. You need to state your name, your SSN, last address, employer, income. Not everything is always required, this is handled on a case-by-case basis. It's common that a landlord wants to know your income to see if you can afford the rent. It's likely that they want to check your credit history record.

Most Americans spend 20-30 percent of their income on rent. Most landlords will not be glad if you even would be willing to spend more than 30 percent since you have to other living costs as well and more than 30 percent might be too high. If you don't have income, another person would be required to co-sign the lease. If you don't pay the rent this person has to jump in.
Have always in mind: a lease is a binding legal document. Binding for both sides. You as well as the landlord have duties and rights. It's always good to know what the respective Landlord-Tenant State Law is!

If your application is accepted you are ready to sign a lease which is today the most common way. A lease sets a fixed time period for you and the landlord. Usually 6 months or 1 year. You have to rent for this period and your landlord has agreed that you can stay for that period of time. It's binding for both sides.
There are exceptions: the so-called 'month-to-month agreements'. The tenant may decide on a monthly basis whether to stay or not. The landlord may decide whether you can stay or not! but the common way is the lease, as mentioned before.
A landlord may ask for a damage deposit which is usually 1 month's rent. If it's higher check the state law if that is legitimate. If you have a pet the landlord may ask for an additional deposit.

When a lease ends the landlord or property management check how you treated the property. They can subtract an amount from your damage deposit if you stressed the property above what is considered as 'normal tear and wear'. A nail in the wall is ok, a 2 inch hole would be considered as damage. A red wine spot on the carpet is not normal tear and wear. So, now you probably know what is meant.
if everything falls under the rule 'normal tear and wear' you'll get your deposit back when the lease ends.
It should be mentioned again: you can not breach your lease and leave whenever you like. If you agreed on the certain period of time you have to stay! If you can't talk to your landlord.

Extra costs for utilities
Please see next page.

Definitions
"Landlord"
The person who rents the apartment is the landlord. If the apartment is owned by a property management, they are not called landlord.
"Tenant"
The person who rents the apartment becomes the tenant.

Arising conflicts?
First rule: talk! Try to solve any issues you have by talking with the landlord or property management.
If that doesn't work out, gather information what your rights are.
Every state in the U.S. has different laws regarding the relationship landlord - tenant.
Either search on the Internet by using keywords like: "Landlord-Tenant Law" and [your State name] or get a start at e.g. Nolo, see website link under 'Related Links'.
After studying your duties and rights, you can decide if you need legal advice.
Legal advice: States and larger cities have so-called 'Bar Associations' which represent the guild of lawyers. You may get there recommendations and mostly 1 free legal advice consultation via phone. Look them up and call them.

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Source: magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20091012
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