Common Rental TermsA few of the most common rental terms are listed below.
The tenant's remedy of moving out of a rental unit that is uninhabitable and that the landlord has not repaired within a reasonable time after receiving notice of the defects from the tenant.
Amount of advance notice
The number of days' notice that must be given before a change in the tenancy can take effect. Usually, the amount of advance notice is the same as the number of days between rent payments. For example, in a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord usually must give the tenant 30 days' advance written notice that the landlord is increasing the amount of the security deposit.
An agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant by which the new tenant takes over the lease of a rental unit and becomes responsible to the landlord for everything that the original tenant was responsible for. The original tenant is still responsible to the landlord if the new tenant doesn't live up to the lease obligations. (See novation; compare to sublease.)
A report prepared by a credit reporting agency that describes a person's credit history for the last seven years (except for bankruptcies, which are reported for 10 years). A credit report shows, for example, whether the person pays his or her bills on time, has delinquent or charged-off accounts, has been sued, and is subject to court judgments.
Credit reporting agency
A business that keeps records of people's credit histories, and that reports credit history information to prospective creditors (including landlords).
A court-administered proceeding for removing a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant has violated the rental agreement or did not comply with a notice ending the tenancy (also called an "unlawful detainer" lawsuit).
Eviction notice (or three-day notice)
A three-day notice that the landlord serves on the tenant when the tenant has violated the lease or rental agreement. The three-day notice usually instructs the tenant to either leave the rental unit or comply with the lease or rental agreement (for example, by paying past-due rent) within the three-day period.
A person who does not have the rights of a tenant, such as a person who stays in a transient hotel for fewer than seven days.
A rental unit that is fit for human beings to live in. A rental unit that substantially complies with building and safety code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety is said to be "habitable." See uninhabitable and implied warranty of habitability.
A deposit that a tenant gives to a landlord to hold a rental unit until the tenant pays the first month's rent and the security deposit.
An inspection by the landlord before the tenancy ends to identify defective conditions that justify deductions from the security deposit. The landlord must perform an initial inspection if the tenant requests it.
Item of information
Information in a credit report that causes a creditor to deny credit or take other adverse action against an applicant (such as refusing to rent a rental unit to the applicant).
A business or person who owns a rental unit, and who rents or leases the rental unit to another person, called a tenant.
A rental agreement, usually in writing, that establishes all the terms of the agreement and that lasts for a predetermined length of time (for example, six months or one year). Compare to periodic rental agreement.
When a landlord locks a tenant out of the rental unit with the intent of terminating the tenancy. Lockouts, and all other self-help eviction remedies, are illegal.
A person who lives in a room in a house where the owner lives. The owner can enter all areas occupied by the lodger, and has overall control of the house.
A process in which a neutral third person meets with the parties to a dispute in order to assist them in formulating a voluntary solution to the dispute.
A person's carelessness (that is, failure to use ordinary or reasonable care) that results in injury to another person or damage to another person's property.
In an assignment situation, a novation is an agreement by the landlord, the original tenant, and the new tenant that makes the new tenant (rather than the original tenant) solely responsible to the landlord.
Periodic rental agreement
An oral or written rental agreement that states the length of time between rent payments - for example, a week or a month - but not the total number of weeks or months that the agreement will be in effect.
Rent control ordinances
Laws in some communities that limit or prohibit rent increases, or that limit the circumstances in which a tenant can be evicted.
The tenant's remedy of not paying some or all of the rent if the landlord does not fix defects that make the rental unit uninhabitable within a reasonable time after the landlord receives notice of the defects from the tenant.
An oral or written agreement between a tenant and a landlord, made before the tenant moves in, which establishes the terms of the tenancy, such as the amount of the rent and when it is due. See lease and periodic rental agreement.
Rental application form
A form that a landlord may ask a tenant to fill out prior to renting that requests information about the tenant, such as the tenant's address, telephone number, employment history, credit references, and the like.
The length of time between rental payments; for example, a week or a month.
An apartment, house, duplex, or condominium that a landlord rents to a tenant to live in.
Insurance protecting the tenant against property losses, such as losses from theft or fire. This insurance usually also protects the tenant against liability (legal responsibility) for claims or lawsuits filed by the landlord or by others alleging that the tenant negligently injured another person or property.
A deposit or a fee that the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of the tenancy. The landlord can use the security deposit, for example, if the tenant moves out owing rent or leaves the unit damaged or less clean than when the tenant moved in.
A written notice from a landlord to a tenant telling the tenant that the tenancy will end in 60 days. A sixty-day notice usually does not have to state the landlord's reason for ending the tenancy.
A separate rental agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant to whom the original tenant rents all or part of the rental unit. The new tenant is called a "subtenant." The agreement between the original tenant and the landlord remains in force, and the original tenant continues to be responsible for paying the rent to the landlord and for other tenant obligations. (Compare to assignment.)
The tenant's exclusive right, created by a rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant, to use and possess the landlord's rental unit.
A person who rents or leases a rental unit from a landlord. The tenant obtains the right to the exclusive use and possession of the rental unit during the lease or rental period.
Tenant screening service
A business that collects and sells information on tenants, such as whether they pay their rent on time and whether they have been defendants in unlawful detainer lawsuits.
- see eviction notice.
A written notice from a landlord to a tenant telling the tenant that the tenancy will end in 30 days. A thirty-day notice usually does not have to state the landlord's reason for ending the tenancy.
A rental unit which has such serious problems or defects that the tenant's health or safety is affected. A rental unit may be uninhabitable if it is not fit for human beings to live in, or if it fails to substantially comply with building and safety code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety. (Compare to habitable.)
Unlawful detainer lawsuit
A lawsuit that a landlord must file and win before he or she can evict a tenant (also called an "eviction" lawsuit).
Writ of possession
A document issued by the court after the landlord wins an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The writ of possession is served on the tenant by the sheriff. The writ informs the tenant that the tenant must leave the rental unit by the end of five days, or the sheriff will forcibly remove the tenant.