Understanding your lease is essential to making sure you are in a fair, responsible agreement with your landlord. They can be confusing, so use the resources below to help you understand the important issues before signing.
Use this Model Lease Agreement as a guideline for any lease you sign into while at Northwestern. Leases can vary property to property, but always make sure that you understand the terms of the agreement you are signing into. Also consider using the Property Checklist while walking through potential housing.
Questions for Landlords
It's important to understand everything about the agreement you sign into. Remember that you are bound to the terms for the entirety of your stay in the premise.
Your landlord should be able to answer all of the questions below. Also consider using the Property Checklist while walking through potential housing.
In IL there is no such thing as a standard lease. Each lease is unique, but there are common elements that are seen in most leases.
Types of Leases
There a number of different types of leases. The following are examples of some:
- Verbal: This is a verbal agreement between the resident and the landlord/manager. This lease is indefinite in regards to its length, rent can be raised with a 30 day notice for month to month, or a 7 day notice for a week to week agreement, this lease can be terminated with a 30 day or 7 day notice depending on the nature of the agreement.
- Month to Month: A month to month lease is similar to a verbal lease except it is a written contract between the landlord/manager and the resident. The contract automatically renews itself at the end of the month. Terms on the lease can be changed with 30 days written notice within the calendar month. These leases can be terminated with 30 days written notice within the calendar month.
- Year Leases: A year long lease is the most common type of lease between landlord/managers and tenants. The length does not have to be one year long, it can be any length negotiated between the landlord/management and the resident. During the term of the lease the clauses remain the same and cannot be changed unless agreed upon by both parties. If terms of the lease are changed make sure to get the agreement in writing. At the end of the lease term the parties can terminate the agreement, renew the agreement and change terms if necessary, or do nothing. If the parties elect to do nothing and do not sign a new contract the lease changes into a month to month contract.
Common Lease Terms
Each lease is unique and specific but there are some common clauses which are included in most leases. When drafting a lease it is a good idea to have an attorney review the contract.
- Rent Schedule: State the day of the month rent is due and the amount of the rent due each month. Also state the method and to whom the rent will be paid.
- Utility Charges: whether or not utilities will be furnished by the landlord; and if the landlord charges for such utilities, how the charge will be determined and paid.
- Late Charges: If the month is not paid by the due date the landlord/management company may collect late charges. Under IL law there is no limit to the amount of late charges that can be collected. Late charges can start anytime after the first. Clearly state the schedule of late fees in the lease in order to avoid any future misunderstandings.
- Facility Amenities: A description of any amenities and facilities on the premises that the tenant is entitled to use such as swimming pool, laundry, or storage spaces.
- Security Deposits: The security deposit cannot exceed the amount of one and a half month's full rent (only one charge; not "one and a half times" for each tenant). The accrued interest on that security deposit belongs to the tenant and not the landlord.
- Sublet/No Sublet: The lease should explain that the tenant shall/shall not sublet the unit without prior written consent of the landlord/management company.
- Alterations to the Unit: Tenant shall not make any alterations to the unit without prior written consent of the landlord/management company.
- Fire and Casuality: If the building or premises are rendered partially or wholly untenantable by fire or other casualty, the landlord/management company shall deliver to the tenant notice within 60 days.
- Tenant Repair Requests: How tenant repair requests are handled and procedures for emergency requests. How any needed preexisting repairs (painting, carpet/furniture/appliance removal, etc.) will be handled (and dates of repair). Whether pest control is provided and how often.
- Designated Parking: If spaces are provided.
Landlord/management company shall have the right to enter the unit at any reasonable time following reasonable notice (reasonable notice is not defined, but both parties can agree to a reasonable time; typically 24-48 hours) except in the case of emergencies, for the following reasons:
- To ascertain the condition of the premise
- To determine whether the tenant is diligently fulfilling tenant's responsibilities under the lease
- To clean and make repairs as may be required or permitted to be made by the landlord/management company under the terms of the lease
- To do any other act or thing which the landlord/management company deems reasonable to preserve the unit and building