Whether you’re getting ready to become a renter for the first time or you’ve been an active renter for some time, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around in the rental world. From the basics to some more complex terms, here are some of the most common rental terms and phrases all renters should know.
The term “utilities” may cover everything from trash removal fees and cable and Internet to electricity and gas. Some apartment communities simplify their rent amounts by offering the inclusion of all utility costs to tenants. It is important to note, however, that not all landlords define this term the same way. Always be sure to ask exactly which utilities are covered in your rental agreements, as well as asking about any limits that exist. It is possible, for instance, that a landlord may cover your air conditioning or heating costs up to a certain amount, after which the tenant is responsible for any additional cost, says the Tenants Union of Washington State.
There are two common terms used to highlight the elements that make an apartment building and an apartment itself special and unique: “amenities” and “features.” The term “amenities” typically encompasses any facilities, common areas or services available to residents within and sometimes even beyond the property, says the National Apartment Association (NAA). These could include a fitness center, pool, play area, grilling areas and can also extend to concierge type services such as dry-cleaning pickup, package receiving and dog walking. See “Features” below for information on what that term means.
While not all apartment communities charge an amenity fee, it is not uncommon for buildings with many amenity spaces and services to charge a fee to residents for the use of these amenities. This fee could be charged on a monthly or yearly basis and the cost can vary greatly.
When applying for an apartment, many landlords and property management companies may screen their applicants with a criminal background check and run a credit report. These screenings often come with an associated fee, which is often passed on to the applicant, says The Spruce. This application fee may also serve to help reserve an apartment for a period of time prior to the lease being signed.
A bachelor apartment refers to one of the smaller apartment floor plans you can find. It often lacks a defined bedroom and typically does not contain a full kitchen, but rather a hot plate, microwave and mini refrigerator. This type of rental could be considered ideal for a renter who either doesn’t cook or is using the apartment as a part-time home.
A rental broker typically works off of a commission and helps facilitate an apartment lease between a prospect (renter) and a landlord or property manager, and is more common in some metropolitan areas, according to MONEY. A “broker fee” is usually equivalent to one month’s rent and is often paid to the broker by the renter once a lease has been signed, adds MONEY. When the landlord or property management company is the one paying the broker, the available rental is usually advertised as a “no-fee” apartment, indicating that the renter is not responsible for paying the broker.
This refers to any area of the building outside of your individual apartment and may include anything from hallways and the laundry room to amenity spaces such as a club room or rooftop.
This is a term that often refers to the highlighted or special components of an individual apartment unit, such as granite countertops, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances or high-end fixtures.
While most long-term (12+ month) apartment rentals come unfurnished (without furniture), there are some rentals that come fully equipped with furniture and sometimes basic kitchen essentials and bathroom necessities. Remember, furnishings can vary, so it’s a good idea to check with your prospective landlord about what may or may not be included in a particular unit.
In between a studio and one bedroom floor plan, many buildings offer a junior one-bedroom option. This generally means that there is a defined, mostly walled-in space that a tenant could treat as a bedroom, but that space is not closed off from the main living area by a true door and could instead feature a sliding door, a pocket door or no door. This floor plan typically includes a full kitchen and may offer a more private sleeping space as compared to a studio apartment.
Often found in a bachelor-style apartment, a kitchenette refers to a kitchen area that is not necessarily equipped as one would expect a full kitchen to be, and could be lacking either full-sized appliances or some appliances altogether, such as an oven.
A lease refers to a rental contract between a renter and a landlord or property management company that indicates all of the terms of the renters tenancy within an individual unit, including the rental cost, lease term, rules and regulations and more, says the NAA.
A lease addendum is a document that is typically attached to a lease and covers any additional terms not covered in the lease. Some examples include a pet addendum or parking addendum.
A lease term refers to the length of your lease, as outlined in a tenant’s lease agreement. Common lease terms include six months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.
A lessee is the tenant or renter who lives within a rental apartment, says the NAA.
A lessor is the landlord or property manager who owns or manages the rental apartment, according to the NAA.
Often used in the context of a security deposit, “normal wear and tear” can vary in definition, but generally refers to the expected amount of wear an apartment is expected to experience within a lease term, says the NAA. Any damage beyond this point may result in these repair costs being taken out of a tenant’s security deposit post move out.
A notice to quit is typically generated by the landlord or property manager and presented to the tenant. It serves to inform the tenant of a required action or actions they must take within a certain amount of time in order to avoid being asked to vacate the apartment, says the NAA. A notice to quit is usually served in response to a lack of rental payment, late rental payment or other breaches of the agreed upon lease terms, such as a pet in a pet-free building, excessive damage to the property or the presence of additional tenants who are not on the lease.
A notice to vacate is when a tenant formally tells the landlord or property manager that they either plan to break their lease or do not plan to renew their lease when their initial lease term expires. Landlords and property managers often set a policy for the amount of time required for a tenant to give notice before moving out or stopping rent payment. This can vary greatly, but typically ranges between 30 to 60 days.
In between a one-bedroom and two-bedroom floor plan, a “one bedroom plus den” typically consists of an apartment with one full bedroom and a secondary (and often smaller) flexible space that could be used as guest sleeping quarters, a den or a home office. Remember, this extra space will vary in style and layout. Some spaces may or may not include a window, closet or door. Check with a prospective landlord for the layout of a particular den.
Renting with a pet often comes along with an additional fee of some sort. There are various forms of additional pet costs and they could exist in isolation or in combination. A pet deposit refers to a dollar amount paid to the landlord or property manager upon move in with the expectation that the deposit will be refunded upon move out, barring any damage caused by the pet within the apartment.
A pet fee usually refers to a one-time nonrefundable payment made by the tenant upon move in. This may or may not be paid again upon lease renewal.
Pent rent is generally a recurring payment (often monthly) that is paid to the landlord or property management company by the tenant for the entire length of the lease.
Prorated rent is a modified rent amount paid when a tenant moves in the middle of a monthly rental cycle. Say, for instance, that a tenant moves in on July 15 and the rent is due on the first day of each month. When agreed upon by both parties, the tenant may only be responsible for a rent payment for the days in July beyond and including July 15, not the entire month of July.
Renewing of one’s lease refers to the decision on the tenant’s part to continue living in an apartment beyond the initial lease term, according to the NAA. Though there is sometimes the option to rent on a month-to-month basis once a lease has expired, it is often the case that the landlord or property manager requires a lease renewal.
Rent is an agreed-upon (and typically monthly) dollar amount that the renter or tenant pays to the landlord or property manager in exchange for tenancy in a particular apartment unit, according to the NAA.
In the context of apartment rentals, a rental concession is often an incentive to lease an apartment to a prospective renter, such as a discounted rent amount, one month of free rent, free parking, waived amenity fees, etc. This is typically offered when a building has a number of vacant apartments they would like to fill quickly.
A security deposit is a sum paid by the tenant to the property manager or landlord upon move in that is expected to be returned upon move out, barring any damage beyond normal wear and tear, according to the NAA.
A studio apartment floor plan, also referred to as an efficiency apartment, can vary in size but lacks any defined bedroom space, though it may include an alcove of some sort that tenants could choose to use as a sleeping space. Studio apartments may also include a full kitchen.
Tenant is another term used to refer to a renter, typically defined as an individual who signs a rental agreement and occupies a space rented from a landlord or property manager.
Utilities are the costs associated with the various utility usage that comes along with renting an apartment like gas, electricity and water.
A walkthrough is a process that can happen at move in, move out or both. It gives both the tenant and the landlord or property manager the opportunity to note and mark the current condition of the rental apartment. Upon move in, a tenant might ask to have certain items repaired or replaced, or they might simply mark a pre-existing condition so as not to be held responsible for any associated costs upon move out. When moving out, tenants and landlords have the chance to assess the apartment once again and agree upon the current state of the space, that often determines how much of the security deposit a tenant can expect to have returned to them.
A walk-up apartment refers to an apartment on a floor higher than ground level in an apartment building with no working elevator.
If you see “W/D Connections” in an apartment listing it is referring to an apartment that has the hookups in place to install a washer and dryer, but no machines are provided by the landlord or property management company.
With these basic rental terms under your belt, you’ll be ready to apartment hunt with confidence. Keep this article handy for whenever you have a question regarding your apartment hunting or renting experience.