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Quick Tips

Housing Search

Set a month budget. Rent + Utilitis + Food + Housewares = $$. Utilize the Tenant Union budget sheet.

Investigate neighborhoods you are considering living in. What are your priorities? Noise? Access to grocery store? Near a bus line? Parking? Crime?

Request a list of landlords here. This list is divided by numbers of complaints.

Visit the landlord's website (or call) to find out more about their rentals. Where are their apartments? How much will the apartment cost per month?

Make appointments to view the places that interest you. Use the apartment hunting checklist when you view the apartment and add any other questions about items you consider to be important. View the EXACT apartment you will be renting and closely examine its condition.

Check landlord complaint records at the Tenant Union and have your lease reviewed with us before you sign it!

Signing a Lease

Have your lease reviewed by a Housing Counselor at the Tenant Union.

You cannot break a lease; there is NO grace period for changing your mind after you sign.

Do not sign the lease unless you are presented with two, identical copies.

All roommates should be present at lease signing to avoid being liable for multiple rents.

Do NOT pay any money until you and the landlord sign the lease (deposit is given upon signing, NOT before).

Get ALL promises in writing in the lease, oral agreements are not binding.

Beware of new construction!

Save your lease and all of your financial records (rent receipts or cancelled checks) until you receive your deposit refund. If the refund amount is incorrect or you dispute deductions made from your deposit, do NOT cash the check. Contact the Tenant Union to discuss strategies for obtaining a proper refund.


There is no grace period after signing a lease to change your mind.

If you and the landlord cannot agree to terms that satisfy you, you can always rent somewhere else. Discussing the lease with the owner or manager will also give you an idea about how reasonable or flexible that company can be.

To take out a sentence, just strike it out, in ink, and place you initials after the last word taken out. Be sure the landlord also places his or her initials next to the change.

If you are adding a clause to the contract, find any available space and write in a complete sentence followed by landlord's and tenant's initials, if the landlord can print a new copy with the amendments typed that works too.

Moving In

About one month before your lease starts contact the public utility companies to arrange to start service before your lease starts. Their contact information can be found here.

Call the landlord in advance to arrange a time and location for picking up your keys.

Complete a condition report form and take pictures of everything that is not 100% perfect, when you move in.

Check your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm to be sure each has a working battery.

Check your lease before using poster putty, tape, or any other adhesive to hang posters on the wall.

If you have roommates, complete and sign a roommate agreement form.

Moving Out

Take photographs to prove that you cleaned and have done no damage.

Contact the public utility companies to arrange for termination of service.

Complete a change of address form at the post office so that your mail will be forwarded. This protects your rights regarding deposit refund and prevents loss of other mail. Visit www.usps.com/umove for more information.

Return all keys directly to the landlord and obtain a receipt for the keys.


Get a copy of the original lease and read it before you sign anything or pay any money.

Sign a written sublease agreement. It should state both the start, and end date of the sublease.

Look at the charges in the lease that will come out of the deposit at the end. THis could be charged to you or eviction for the original tenant's non-payment of rent could occur.

State clearly whether you are subletting the entire apartment or just one bedroom of the apartment and shared use of common areas.

Pay rent to the landlord and not to the original tenant.

Arrange for all utility service to be started in your name on the start date of the sublease.

You and the original tenant should conduct a joint inspection of the condition of the apartment on the start date of the sublease. Photograph any damage.

Pay any deposit directly to the landlord, not to the original tenant and obtain receipt of all monies paid.

Ask the landlord for apartment ledger before signing in case of any outstanding bills at the unit.


Always report the problem to the main office or to the property manager. If you just tell a maintenance worker you see in the hallway, the landlord may not know that you've requested maintenance.

If repair was attempted, but not successful, or if the job was not finished, report this to the main office or property manager. Do not assume your landlord knows that the maintenance worker did not finish the job.

If you telephone your landlord to report a maintenance need, follow up in writing if you do not receive a response within 24 hours.

Use certified, return-receipt mail at the post office to send written notice any time the landlord's delay in performing repairs could cost you money. For example, a running toilet or a water leak in a tub or hot water heater could cause your water bill to be 10 times the normal amount. If you expect the landlord to reimburse you for the excessive bill, it will be essential to prove that you notified the landlord of the problem. Written notice sent by return-receipt certified mail is the best way to PROVE you gave notice.


The Tenant Union does not provide legal services of any kind. All information provided in this publication is intended to help the average person prevent problems and deal with common concerns of renting. When legal help is needed, always consult with an attorney at law.