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Top 10 Rental Terms

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So, you know the basics: lease, landlord, tenant. But what about those other buzz words? What exactly do you have to know to score an awesome new home? Here is a list of ten important terms that will help facilitate the grueling process of finding a new rental.   

1. Lessor/Lessee

A lessor is simply another name for a landlord and a lessee another word for a tenant. Be aware of interchangeable words that may appear in your lease, and do not hesitate to ask for clarification if there is something you do not understand.


2. Certificate of Occupancy

A certificate of occupancy is a document that all landlords need to obtain for any property that they plan to rent out. It states the property/building is in compliance with any laws and is suitable for living. Make sure this process has been properly completed before you sign a lease.

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3. Security Deposit – and how to get it back!

Often, you will be required to pay a security deposit before moving in. This deposit simply allows the landlord to feel more confident that rent will be paid. After paying your security deposit, your rental will be inspected for any damages. When your lease is up, the property will be inspected once again. If your apartment shows no new damage since your lease began, you will most likely have some or all of your security deposit returned to you. Be aware that laws surrounding security deposits can vary from place to place.


4. Damages

As previously mentioned, to get your security deposit back, ensure that you leave the apartment in the same condition you found it. If you have left any significant damage behind after moving out, your landlord may have reason to keep your security deposit. Damage is defined differently by each landlord so if you would like to know more about what is expected from you, be sure to ask and take pictures of existing damage before you move in!


5. Prorate

To 'prorate' something means to distribute or allocate evenly. In a rental setting, rent or utility payments are commonly prorated. For example, if you moved into a new apartment in the middle of a month, then your rent payment would be prorated so that you would only be required to pay for that half of a month. This is to ensure that you are only being charged for what you actually use. 


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6. Subleasing

Your landlord should know your plans when it comes to subleasing. It is best to be honest and open with landlords so no headaches are caused down the road. Be sure to review your lease for any information regarding subleasing. If for some reason it is not mentioned in the terms, do not hesitate to reach out and ask your landlord.


7. Renter’s Resume

Be prepared for a potential landlord to ask for a renter’s resume before moving forward. This is simply a way for the landlord to get to know the kind of tenant you will be and what you expect from your rental. Similar to a typical work resume, it will include your current job situation and educational background. To learn more, read our blog on how to craft the perfect renter’s resume.


8. Pet Resume

It has become common for landlords to request what is known as a 'pet resume' from tenants who plan on having animals live in the house. Like a renter’s resume, this is simply some background information to let the landlord know that pets residing in their property will not cause any damage, be a nuisance to neighbors, etc. If you plan to live with your pet, be ready to prepare a resume for the both of you! Check out this website for some tips on how to make a pet resume. 


9. Credit History

From a financial perspective, a good credit score is a must. Landlords want to know that you will be able to pay your full rent on time each month. Running a credit history on a prospective tenant is not uncommon. Utility companies may also do the same. Make sure you are aware of this while going through the rental process. 

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10. Automatic Renewals

Be cognizant of when your rental agreement ends. Some leases renew automatically, meaning if you are planning on moving after your lease is up, you will need to contact your landlord and make sure you can get out of the lease. Don't get stuck for another year just because you didn't read the fine print!



Preparation is the key to finding a great new home. Do your research, ask questions, and make sure that you are well equipped with rental vocabulary.


Looking for some guidance with your upcoming rental hunt? Try using RentAssist, a Dwellworks service developed to help guide you through the ups and downs of renting. 


Want to learn more? Check out some other blogs!


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