Lease and Deposit
The lease is a contract that legally binds both you and the landlord to the terms stated in it for a specified period of time. The lease should be written. Beware that a verbal contract may be impossible to prove should a dispute arise. In a lease, you are the lessee/tenant renting the apartment. The landlord is the one individual who either owns the property or manages it. Read the lease or contract carefully before you sign it. If you don’t understand something, have it explained, or contact the Tulane Legal Assistance Program. Make sure you obtain a copy of the signed lease!
If the apartment building you inhabit is sold while you are an occupant, the new owner is not legally required to honor the terms of the contract you signed with the previous owner.
What the lease should specify
How much is the rent? Can it increase for any reason during the term of the lease? If you have a dispute with your landlord, do not withhold the month’s rent. The landlord has the legal right to evict you if you withhold rent.
When must the rent be paid each month? Make sure you know what day of the month the rent is due. You can be charged additional fees for a late rent payment.
Number of occupants: How many people can live in the apartment? Can you sublet the apartment?
Roommates: Who is responsible for the rent should one roommate leave? If you will be sharing the apartment with roommates, be sure that each person occupying the apartment is able to sign the lease.Realize that the only people who are ultimately responsible for the rent, damages, etc. are those whose names appear on the lease. Louisiana law states that each roommate can be held liable for the full amount of the lease, not just his or her individual share. Consider asking the landlord to sign a separate lease with each of you reflecting the individual shares of rent.
What is the length of the lease? Most leases are for a 12 month period. Some landlords agree to a 9 month lease, but the rent may be higher.
What is the landlord’s right of entry? Check to see if you have to be present in order to allow the landlord into your apartment/house.
Is there an automatic renewal clause included in the terms of the agreement? The lease may contain a statement that automatically renews the agreement for the full term of the original contract. If you do not wish to renew your lease, you must notify the landlord in writing that you intend to move. This notice must be given before the expiration of the lease, usually 30 days in advance. If the lease does not contain a lease renewal clause, and you do not notify the landlord of your intention to move, the lease can be automatically renewed on a month-to month-basis. If either you or the landlord decides to change the terms of the lease, 10 days advance written notice before the end of the monthly lease must be given.
Security/Damage deposit: If a landlord agrees to hold an apartment for you, you will probably have to pay a deposit. This deposit obligates you to take the apartment on an agreed upon date. If you decide not to take the apartment, the landlord is entitled to keep whatever part of the deposit is reasonably necessary under the circumstances. In many cases, this will be the entire deposit. A security/damage deposit is given the landlord to satisfy nonpayment of rent or damage that you have made to the apartment. Be sure to know how much the security deposit is. Is there a "liquidated damages" clause that allows the landlord to keep the entire deposit if you move out before the lease expires? A deposit may be kept only if you do not pay your rent or for unreasonable wear or damage to the property. Normal wear and tear is not deductible. If the deposit is not enough to cover provable, unreasonable wear, you may also be responsible for additional charges. The law requires a landlord to return deposits within 30 days of termination of a lease, provided that you have fulfilled the lease and left a forwarding address. If any part of the deposit is kept, the landlord must send you an itemized list of deductions and any remaining balance.
Utilities: Who pays the utilities? Never assume that utilities are included unless it is written into the lease. Usually you will have to pay for electricity, gas, water, telephone service, and cable. Sometimes your landlord may include water in the month's rent. Either way, be sure to ASK! There are many clauses and statements that do not benefit you and that you may be agreeing with for not requesting all the information, and not taking advantage of all the resources.
Maintenance: Who is responsible for maintenance/repairs? Always notify the landlord in writing of any big repairs that are needed. Take pictures.
What to do at the end of the lease: Always give written notice that you intend to vacate the premises. Do not assume that the landlord knows you are leaving because the lease is expiring. You MUST give a written 30 day notice that you plan to vacate or the lease may be automatically renewed. If you vacate the premises before your lease ends, you may be responsible for paying the rent for the remaining month(s) and/or lose your deposit.
Contact the Tulane Legal Assistance Program (TULAP). The office is located at University Square,
200 Broadway Street, Suite 212, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118. They can be reached at (504) 865-5515, email@example.com, or http://www.law.tulane.edu/tulap/.
The Louisiana ACORN Fair Housing Organization (LAFHO) can be reached 1-800-239-7379.