Application & Lease
The property manager may require you to complete an application and request a deposit to reserve the rental. It is recommended that you do not provide any any money until the landlord signs the lease.
The property manager may require a cosigner if the applicant does not meet income requirements. The cosigner is often a parent or guardian. Cosigners may be required to submit evidence of income.
Even if you are unable to identify a cosigner, you may have financial obligations if you sign the lease.
Money to Hold a Place
Some landlords ask tenants to pay a deposit to "hold" the place BEFORE the lease is actually signed or to sign a "pre-lease." This practice can pose a problem for tenants including:
- You will lose your money if you change your mind.
- You will lose your money if you decide not to rent the place, because the landlord will not agree to lease changes.
- You do not have anything in writing to prove the exact apartment you are “holding,” the amount of rent, the start date of the lease, or any other aspect of the deal you made.
- The landlord could still rent the apartment to someone else, and they would only owe you the refund of the money you made.
It is recommended to only pay money after you and the landlord sign a lease, because you have agreed upon the terms and have already made necessary changes to the contract.
A lease is a contract between you and the landlord. It outlines you and your property manager’s responsibilities. Negotiate for lease changes that concern you, and be willing to rent elsewhere if you and the landlord cannot agree to terms that satisfy you. Once you sign a lease, you are responsible for the provisions within the lease.
- READ YOUR LEASE AND UNDERSTAND IT BEFORE YOU SIGN. There is NO grace period for changing your mind after you sign.
- The lease should clearly state every agreement that you believe exists between you and the landlord.
- If you are adding a clause to the lease, find any available space and write in a complete sentence followed by landlord's and tenants' initials. To take out a sentence, just strike it out, in ink, and place your initials after the last word taken out. Be sure the landlord also places his or her initials next to the change.
- Do not sign the lease unless you are presented with two, identical copies - one for you and one for the landlord, and the landlord (or agent) is signing one copy while you are signing the other. You need the landlord's signature on your copy of the lease. Get all promises in writing. Oral agreements are not binding when you have a written lease.
- All roommates should meet together with the landlord to sign the lease. Many problems result from each of you signing the contract at a different time.
- Beware of new construction that is not completed by the day you sign the lease. Often, new buildings are not available for move-in on the start date of the lease and when you finally can move in, amenities are still not provided and the apartment and property are filled with debris and construction materials.
Students are encouraged to attend a Lease Education Workshop and utilize the Off-Campus Community Living Lease Checklist to help you consider what could be in the lease.
Lease Language You May Want to Include
Every lease is different. The following will give you some ideas about lease clauses that you may want to negotiate with your landlord to include.
Adding a Page to the Lease
If you will be adding an extra page to the lease, you need to title the page (for example, call it Addendum A). Then you must add a clause to the lease that says the Addendum is part of the lease.
Addendum A, attached, is incorporated by reference as part of this lease.
Your lease should include an affirmative statement of the landlord’s duty to perform needed repairs.
Lessor agrees to maintain the premises in accordance with all applicable codes and to promptly perform all needed repairs to the premises, appliances and furnishings, at Lessor's sole expense, except damage resulting from Lessee's negligence.
A landlord has no obligation to renew your lease or to offer you a new lease on the apartment you occupy. If you want to be informed about the availability of your unit or, ask to have a renewal clause included in your lease. This clause does not obligate you to renew and it does not obligate the landlord to offer you renewal, but it keeps you informed and gives you time to plan on making a renewal decision.
The renewal deadline for this unit is __________________. Lessor agrees that, prior to this date, Lessor will not rent this unit for the subsequent lease term to anyone other than Lessee.
Landlords are not required to do monthly, preventative pest control services. If you want to ensure that the landlord is responsible for pest control, ask to add a clause. You may also want to inquire if bed bugs are part of regular pest control or considered to be the responsibility of the tenant. Consider adding:
Lessor shall provide monthly pest control services and shall exterminate additionally as needed to remedy pest or rodent infestation (ants, roaches, bed bugs, mice, rats, bats, etc.).
Every promise should be included in the lease with a completion date. For example:
By the start date of the lease, Lessor shall shampoo the carpet and paint the entire apartment.
In Urbana, landlords are required to give 24 hours’ notice before entering your apartment. There is no such provision in the city of Champaign. You may want to add to your lease the following:
Except in an emergency, Lessor or Lessor's agents shall not enter the leased premises for any purpose without first giving a minimum of __________hours advance notice to Lessee.
If you think you will be provided a parking space, be sure your lease identifies the space. If the landlord does not provide a space number, they could sell more permits than the number of parking spaces in the lot. You may want to add:
Lessor leases parking space #________ to Lessee for a rental rate of $____________ per month or Lessee may park one vehicle in parking space #_____. The charge for parking is included in the rent.
Furnished apartment or home.
Your lease should list all furniture and appliances to be provided by the landlord. For example:
Lessor shall provide and maintain the following: sofa, living room chair, 2 living room lamps, 1 coffee table, dining table with 4 chairs, 3 desks, 3 desk chairs, 3 double beds, 3 dressers, oven/range, microwave oven, refrigerator, 1 washer/dryer unit, central air, garbage disposal and blinds for all windows.
Unfurnished but landlord provides appliances.
Your lease should list all appliances to be provided by the landlord.
Leased premises are unfurnished except that Lessor shall provide and maintain an oven/range, refrigerator, garbage disposal, 1 window air conditioner and blinds for all windows.
Unless your lease includes a promise offering you a renewal deadline, your landlord could rent your apartment for next year without ever telling you about it. In the area close to the University of Illinois, many landlords sign leases 10 months before they start. If you want to be sure that you are given first option to rent for another year, and you want to negotiate the date for making that decision, add a clause like this:
The renewal deadline for this unit is_____________. Lessor agrees that prior to this date, he/she will not rent this unit for the following lease term to anyone other than lessee.
Permission to keep a pet
Most leases say the tenant cannot keep a pet without the landlord's prior written consent. Without written consent to keep your pet, you could be evicted, even if every other tenant in the building has a pet. Add:
Lessee may keep 2 cats in the apartment.
If you rent a house, or in a building with fewer than 5 apartments, and you do not live in Urbana, the law does not specify when the landlord must refund your deposit, nor does the law require the landlord to itemize deposit deductions. If you want these protections, you must include a promise in your lease:
Lessor may not withhold any money from the deposit for property damage unless, within 30 days after Lessee vacates the premises, Lessor provides Lessee with an itemized statement of charges, listing the actual costs and attaching copies of paid receipts for each charge. Deposit refund will be sent to Lessee's last known address within 30 days after Lessee vacates the premises.
Military Release Clause
If you or any one of your roommates will need to leave in the middle of the lease when called to active duty in the military, the remaining roommates will be responsible for paying the rent of the one who went into military services UNLESS you have added a clause to your lease providing for reduction of the total rent due by the percent of the rent that roommate was paying.
Lessor agrees that if any individual who has signed this lease is called to active military duty, Lessor shall release that individual from the lease and shall reduce the total rent due under the contract by % for the balance of the term, commencing 30 days after receiving notice from the tenant s/he has been called to active duty.
If you expect your landlord to assist with snow removal, ask for a clause to be added to your lease:
Lessor shall provide snow and ice removal for parking lot, stairs, walkways and all sidewalks including the public right of way around the building.
Reimbursement of Utility Costs to Landlord
If your landlord pays the utility bills you may want to protect yourself by adding:
Lessee shall reimburse Lessor ___% of the monthly Ameren IP power bills for the building. Lessee shall not be liable for any portion of late fees on a bill unless Lessee is at fault for late payment to the Lessor. Payment will be due to Lessor within 10 days of Lessee's receipt of a copy of the actual bill from the power company.
A clause in the lease that says that you and your guests will not smoke in the apartment does NOT impose any duty on the landlord to prohibit other tenants of the building from smoking. If you think you will be renting in a building where smoking is prohibited, ask the landlord to write something like this into the lease:
Smoking is not allowed in any apartments or common areas of the building. Lessor agrees to enforce the no-smoking policy throughout the building.
Evicting your Roommate
Roommates do not have standing to evict other roommates unless they have authorization to do so from the landlord. Adding this clause to your lease would help.
Lessor agrees that a non-defaulting co-lessee may act as the landlord's agent for the purposes of seeking eviction of a defaulting co-tenant.
Most leases include a provision that allow landlords to charge the tenant for attorney fees to claims they have against you. Add the following:
Lessee shall pay Lessor's reasonable attorney's fees and expenses to enforce the provisions of this lease. Lessor shall pay Lessee's reasonable attorney's fees and expenses to enforce the provisions of this lease.
Lease Language You May Want to Change
The following are a few examples of lease clauses that have caused problems for tenants in the past. You will be held to every word of your lease, so if any provision is not acceptable to you, you should ask to have it removed. Some clauses can be changed by adding additional words or deleting certain words. Don't forget to have the landlord who signs the lease place his or her initials next to every change made.
Failure to Deliver Possession
If your landlord cannot or will not give you keys to the rental unit on the start date of the lease, the landlord should be responsible for paying your "damages" or loss resulting from the landlord's breach of the lease. However, landlords can add clauses to their lease to protect their own interests.
For example: Lessor shall not be liable for any damages resulting from Lessor's failure to deliver possession of the premises at the start date of the lease term. Lessee shall not be liable for rent until possession is delivered and Lessee hereby agrees that said abatement of rent shall be his/her sole remedy. If possession cannot be delivered within 30 days, Lessee may cancel this lease.
With this clause in your lease, you agree that the landlord owes you nothing, except you don't have to pay rent for the days you can't live in the rental unit—AND you'll wait 30 days to see if and when the landlord might let you move in.
Delete this clause and add a clause to protect your own interests.
Mold is usually the result of a structural defect that allows moisture to saturate drywall or particle board in walls. Many new buildings have mold as soon as construction is completed because the landlord did not successfully prevent water damage during construction.
Beware of leases that hold you responsible for mold in the apartment.
Rules and Regulations
It is reasonable for landlords to have rules. Read the rules and regulations before signing the lease. You can be evicted for breach of these rules.
Delete the phrase "rules can be amended from time to time by the lessor" to protect you from new rules being added that you do not want to obey.
To find a subtenant, you will have to pay for advertising, answer all the calls and show the place many times.
Consider eliminating sublet fees or lowering the cost of the fee prior to signing a lease.
Consent Revoked on Pets
Once you have a pet, it can be difficult to find a giveaway or find a new home for the pet.
Beware of leases that give the landlord permission to revoke or withdraw permission to keep a pet.
Cleaning and Repairs
A landlord should only charge you their actual costs for cleaning, painting, or other damages beyond normal wear. When leases have pre-established costs, you may be overcharged on cleaning and repairs.
Negotiate this clause with the landlord to reflect actual costs of cleaning and repairs.
Read your lease to understand the penalties for being late on rent payments. Find out if there is a grace period before late charges are imposed.
Add grace periods to the lease and renegotiate late fees if they seem unreasonable to you.
In Urbana, city ordinance prohibits late charges greater than 5% of monthly rent unless the landlord can prove actual costs above 5% of the amount of rent.
Damages Due to Fire (or other calamity)
Sometimes apartments and homes can become inhabitable due to fire or some other calamity. Your lease should include a clause that explains what the landlord will do (terminate the lease, keep security deposits, move you to a different unit, etc.) and how long you will be tied to the current lease (a week, 30 days, 90 days, etc.)
Consider changing the amount of time to whatever you will consider reasonable if fire forces you from your home.
Evictions and Notice
The following are examples of lease clauses waiving your rights under state law to notice and due process prior to eviction. Lessee hereby waives any and all rights to notice or demand under any statute of the State relative to forcible entry and detainer or landlord and tenant or In the event of a default hereunder, Lessor may re-enter and re-possess the premises either with or without force and with or without process of law.
It is reasonable to ask that these be removed from the lease before you sign it. Do not give up your legal rights.
Confession of Judgment
If you sign a lease containing confession of judgment, you agree that the landlord can sue you in court without ever serving you notice of the court date. You agree that the landlord's attorney represents you in court, says you are wrong, and asks for a judgment against you. You automatically lose and if the suit is for eviction, the Sheriff will remove you from the premises.
It is reasonable to ask that these be removed from the lease before you sign it. Do not give up your legal rights.
Forfeiture of Deposit
Your landlord should only be making deductions from your deposit for actual costs for damages that are your fault.
Beware of catch-all clauses that allow your landlord to keep your entire deposit.
Sometimes landlords place a clause that a lease will be automatically renewed if you do not provide written notice within a specific timeframe. The problem with this lease clause is that you may forget to give notice, and be legally tied to the lease for another year.
You may want to remove this clause.
Landlords add to leases the fees that they can charge you for costs of collection: court costs, attorney fees, collection agencies, etc. Additionally they may add "Lessee stipulate and agree that the costs of collection can range from 35% to 50% of the amount placed in collection which the lessee agrees to be a reasonable amount for such costs of collection."
You may want to remove this clause.
Sometimes landlords will add clauses to their lease that allow them to increase rent during the lease period if their operating costs increase.
Remove this clause.
When There is No Lease
It is in your best interest to have a lease. If you do not have a lease, you cannot provide any documentation related to the agreement you and the landlord made upon moving into the space. Below are some situations that can arise:
- The landlord can ask you to leave without giving a reason. This is called termination of tenancy without cause. The landlord is only required to give you written notice, a full rental period in advance, asking you to move on the last day of the rental period. You still must pay the last month's rent.
- The landlord can raise the rent at any time. There is no limit on the amount of the rent increase. If you cannot afford the rent increase, all you can do is give your notice of intent to move at the end of the next rental period.
- The tenant cannot prove promises made to them regarding pest control, maintenance, repairs, utilities, etc.
Additionally the law protects landlords and requires tenants to give written notice to the landlord before moving out even if there isn’t a lease. The notice must be given 30 days in advance of the least day of the rental period. The tenant will owe an extra month’s rent if they do not provide this written notice and the landlord does not re-rent within 30 days.
In most cases, tenants do not actually "renew," but rather, sign a new lease. If you sign a lease for another year, be sure to:
- Have the start date of the new lease be the same date as the end date of the current lease.
- Write onto your new lease that your deposit from the previous lease is carried over to apply to the new lease.
Beware of Renewal Notices
If you receive a notice from your landlord asking if you want to renew, do NOT just check "yes," sign your name and return it. The consequences of taking this action could be:
- The landlord considers this a contract and expects you to pay another year's rent, even though you never signed a new lease.
- The landlord rents your place to someone else for the next year saying you never returned the form.
If you receive a renewal notice and want to renew, the best course of action is to contact the landlord, make an appointment and sign a new lease with the landlord in a way that ensures you walk away with a copy of the contract that has been signed by the landlord.
If you respond to a renewal notice, at the very least, you should keep a copy of the letter the landlord sent with the notice, photocopy the portion you sign before you return it, and send your response by receipt-return, certified mail through the post office so that you can prove you sent it back. If you think you are just saying that you are interested in renewal but do not want to be obligated for another year, don't sign anything.
When you have a lease for one year or some other fixed term, you must move out when the lease is up. If you continue to stay after the lease ends (even one day), your landlord can consider you to be a holdover tenant. Your landlord can choose to charge you month to month, automatically renew you into another year lease, or sue to evict based on the lease.
If you would like to stay in your apartment past the lease date, obtain a signed agreement from the landlord before your original lease ends stating whether your lease is will continue on a month to month basis or for another year. Without such an agreement, you really must move out when your lease ends or the landlord will get to decide the terms of your continued occupancy. The landlord does NOT have to inform you immediately of which course of action s/he has chosen, making your situation even more precarious.
Most leases will be 12 months long, especially furnished apartments near campus. If you do not plan to stay in the apartment for the entire length of the lease or if you want a short-term lease (ex: one semester), you will want to sublease. Landlords cannot withhold consent unreasonably, but most leases require landlord’s consent to the sublease.
Strategies to Find Short Term Housing or Sublease
- Check with University Housing or Private Certified Housing for short term housing options.
- Utilize the Study Abroad Housing Board. You can find other students who need a subletter while they are studying abroad. You must use your Net ID to log in to view or post listings.
- Utilize social media and websites like Craig’s List. Be aware of scams!
- For Spring-only lease, you may find a rental that the landlord was not able to rent for the academic year and it has been vacant for the fall.
- For a summer sublet, you may be able to pay a reduced amount of rent due to the high number of students looking for subletters.
- The News-Gazette
Strategies to Find a Subtenant
- The Study Abroad Housing Board. You can post your ad to other University of Illinois students.
- The Daily Illini Classified section. They have a sublet section, but there is a charge to post.
- Social media and website such as Craig’s List. Beware of scams.
- Summer subletting is the most difficult, as many students are looking for subletters. Consider making your rent price negotiable.
Risks of Subletting
There is risk involved for both the original tenant and the subtenant. The landlord could pursue the original tenant and the subtenant for unpaid rent, fees, and damages caused by the other. The landlord could also evict the subtenant if they were not aware the subtenant had entered into an agreement with the original tenant or if the landlord had not approved the sublease in the first place.
To minimize these risks, consider the following
- Complete a sublease agreement (pdf).
Usually the landlord has a sublease agreement that they use in their office, but you can always have a separate agreement between the tenant and subtenant. The agreement should cover dates of the sublease, rent owed by both original tenant and subtenant, security deposits, etc. Make sure that the landlord either signs the sublease agreement or signs a statement that says the original tenant has permission to sublet. Both the original tenant and subtenant should have a copy of the statement.
- Conduct inspections and keep documentation.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea for the original tenant and the subtenant to conduct a joint, written inspection at the beginning and end of the sublease period, recording in writing, any damage. If this is not possible the original tenant and the subtenant should do the inspection separately.
- Have the subtenant provide a security deposit.
The best arrangement for both parties is for the subtenant to pay the deposit directly to the landlord who is responsible, under the terms of the sublease contract, for refunding the subtenant's deposit. The original tenant is best protected if the sublease agreement says that the landlord will charge the subtenant first for any damage found at the end of the lease that was not reported on the joint inspection conducted at the beginning of the sublease period.
- Read the lease for any charges that will be charged at the end of the lease.
Both the original tenant and the subtenant should read the original lease related to charges that will be assessed at the end of the lease. The amount refunded to the original tenant and subtenant will be reduced by the amount of charges owed by the original tenant before the refund is made to the subtenant.
Breaking A Lease
In almost all case, you can’t break a lease. It is rare for landlords in Champaign-Urbana to allow you to just pay a penalty and walk away from contractual obligations. If your landlord actually agrees to release you from your lease, get it in writing such as this example of a lease release (pdf).
If you move out and stop paying rent, expect the landlord to sue you and win a judgement against you for the balance of rent due until the end of the lease, plus court costs and attorney fees. This will also go on your credit record for 7 years.
The only circumstances that MIGHT get you of your lease are:
- When the property has been condemned by the city housing inspector.
- When your utility service has been terminated because of the landlord’s non-payment.
- When the tenant is being called to active duty within the military.
- If a member of your household is a victim of sexual violence on the leased premises or is in imminent danger of being a victim of domestic violence and you have given notice and evidence required by the law.
If you think you have legal grounds to get out of your lease, consult with the ATTORNEY AT LAW who will represent you in court when the landlord sues you.
- Two copies of the lease so you can take one with you as soon as you sign
- Full names of Lessor (landlord) and all Lessees (tenants)
- Landlord's original signature on your copy of the lease
- Complete description of location of rental unit — street address, apartment number; number of bedrooms and for a house, be sure to mention if garage, basement etc. included
- Rent — amount and when it is due
- Beginning and ending dates of lease term (try to get a lease ending date that will coincide with a lease start date at a new place)
- Advance payments of rent (if rent is due on the first and the lease starts on the 15th, be sure the lease is clear as to when the first payment is due; many landlords expect a full month's rent on Aug. 1 or Aug. 15, applying half of that payment to the partial month of August at the end of the lease)
- When will deposit be refunded?
- Who pays for utilities and garbage hauling?
- How much are late fees? Are any other fees charged (sewer tax, sublet fee, recycling tax)?
- Parking space number, charge or no cost?
- Repairs, pest control, snow removal, recycling, or other services to be provided
- Privacy rights of tenant
- Furniture and appliances (each one named) to be provided
- Promises made by the landlord — painting, carpet shampoo, certain repairs