A good place to start on your search for an apartment is knowing the terminology you will encounter. The Texas Apartment Association provides an excellent list of terms to learn.
Renting a place to live may be a lifestyle choice for you, but it’s also a business transaction. Here are some common terms you’ll need to be familiar with:
- Lease: A lease is a binding, legal contract in which you agree to pay some amount of rent for a specific piece of property, for a specific period of time.
- Lease term: The length of time you agree to rent the property: 6 months, 9 months, a year, etc.
- Security deposit: Money you pay when the lease is signed to help offset the cost of any lease violation charges or property damages to the property while you are living there.
- Application deposit: Money you may be asked to pay in advance at the time you complete a rental application. If you are approved to rent the property, the application deposit (not the application fee) is usually applied to your security deposit.
- Rental application: A form you’ll be asked to complete, giving information about your current and past addresses, current and past employers, other sources of income, criminal history, etc. Information in the application helps the property owner determine if you can afford to pay the rent and are unlikely to be a risk to the property or other residents.
- Application fee: An administrative fee to cover the costs of checking your credit, rental history, etc. when you submit a rental application. This fee is non-refundable.
- Default: Failing to follow the provisions agreed to in the lease.
- Resident: Someone who signs the lease and is obligated to pay rent.
- Occupant: Someone living with a resident, but who has not signed the lease and is not obligated to pay rent.
- Reletting charge: A sum of money or percentage of the rent that is agreed to cover the property owner’s costs of finding another acceptable resident if you move out before the end of your lease term.
- Notice to vacate: Written notice given to you by the property owner, advising you that you must move out before the end of your lease term; this is the notice you will receive if you are evicted. A notice to vacate can also be given to advise you that the property owner will not renew your lease for any additional term.
- Subletting: An agreement made by a resident and another person, without permission of the property owner, for the other person to rent all or a portion of the property from the resident. Subletting is not lawful without express permission from the owner.
- Joint and several liability: If more than one resident signs the lease, each resident will be individually responsible for fulfilling the terms of the lease and paying the entire rent, even if the other residents do not pay their share.
- Eviction: The property owner asks a Justice of the Peace Court to end the resident’s right to occupy the property. If you are evicted, a constable will remove your belongings and you must leave the property. The eviction process allows a Justice of the Peace to determine the merits of the property owner’s request.