Leasing Tips

Considering signing a new lease? Take a look at these tips and best practices for renters reviewing lease agreements. 

1. Ask for a copy of the lease and any rules and regulations before signing anything. 

2. Read all documents carefully, and remember that Legal Services for Students can help you review lease agreements and contracts. 

3. Check with friends, tenants, and read online reviews to find out about the landlord's reputation, especially with regard to maintenance issues and return of deposits. 

4. Watch out for certain terms in the lease, for example: 

  • Automatic renewal
    • These clauses stipulate that the lease agreement will renew at the end date unless the tenant requests, in writing, that the lease end on the stated date within a stated period of time. Often students overlook this clause and assume they can move out at the end of the lease term, sometimes even signing another lease before they realize their rental agreement has renewed and they are stuck in their previous lease. 
    • You can attach and submit a Nonrenewal Notice when you sign your lease so that your lease will not be automatically renewed. 
    • LSS can provide a sample Nonrenewal Notice for student use. 
  • Joint and several liability 
    • Joint and several liability means that if you rent an apartment with other tenants, you are each responsible for the full amount of rent stated in the contract. This means that if one roommate fails to pay his or her share and the landlord only receives partial payment as a result, all roommates can be evicted. 
    • Unfair as this seems, this clause is enforceable. It may be a good idea to have one tenant responsible for paying rent and for all other roommates to pay their shares to that person. 
  • Sublease
    • Some landlords do not allow subleasing. Some leases require prior approval by the landlord before subleasing and require you to pay a fee to sublease. 
  • Eviction
    • Tenants are liable for rent for the full lease term even if he or she is evicted from the apartment. 
  • Late fees: 
    • Most leases will state that if the rent payment is late additional fees will be charged. This is permissible if the amount of the late fee is not excessive. Landlords can evict tenants for nonpayment of rent. 
  • Rules and regulations
    • Many leases contain a clause that allows the landlord to issue new rules and regulations at a later date. If the landlord issues new rules and regulations after you sign your lease or during your lease term, they can become part of your lease agreement. This means you are bound by them just like any other terms in your lease. Sometimes this clause will allow the landlord to try to evict you for violating a rule that didn't exist when you signed the lease, as long as the landlord made a reasonable effort to notify you of the new rule. 

5. Select your roommates carefully

  • Discuss utility expenses with your future roommate(s). You will want to decide in whose name the utilities (gas, electric, cable, internet, water, etc.) will be listed. Remember, having a good payment record with utility companies will help establish a good credit rating for you, but a bad payment record will hurt your credit. 
  • You will be legally liable for your roommate's share of the rent under most leases (see Joint and Several Liability above). If your roommate doesn't pay his or her share of the rent for any reason, you will either have to pay it or face eviction. Make sure the people you choose to live with are responsible and have adequate income. 
  • In addition to financial resources, you should take into consideration any potential roommate's study habits, neatness, personality, dependability, and social habits. Inability to get along with a roommate is not grounds for breaking your lease. 

6. Security deposits and move-out charges

  • Read all attachments and addendums. A common addendum/attachment is a Move-Out Maintenance Charges schedule. Contrary to the Move-Out Maintenance Charges addendum, the landlord is required to charge actual costs for repairs and cleaning rather than a standard fee. When a landlord incurs these actual costs and decides to deduct them from the security deposit, the landlord must itemize these costs. You should ask the landlord to remove the Check-Out Maintenance Charges addendum from the lease agreement. 

7. Application fees

  • If there are application fees, ask if they are refundable. If they are not refundable, ask if the application fees can be applied to the security deposit. 

8. Ask to see the actual apartment, not just a model

  • A model apartment is mean to be impressive, but is not the apartment you will live in. Before you sign the lease, ask to see the actual apartment so that you will know right away if there are any problems. 


Sample Repair Notice and Nonrenewal Notice forms are available on request. 


The information above is only meant to provide a general overview of issues commonly faced by students when renting from a private landlord. If you have a legal problem or question, you should consult with an attorney to learn how the law applies to your specific situation. KU students are encouraged to reach out to Legal Services for Students for legal assistance.