Renting a House

If you rent a house, rather than an apartment, you'll have some additional concerns:

  • Be sure the lease states the number of bedrooms in the house, especially if any bedrooms are in the basement or attic. If any area containing bedrooms becomes unfit for habitation while the rest of the house is still habitable, you'll be in a better bargaining position with your landlord if you can prove that the uninhabitable space was leased to you for living and sleeping purposes.
  • Lawn care and snow removal will probably be your responsibility. City codes require that lawns be mowed. If you think the landlord is providing either of these services, make sure your lease says so.
  • Garbage hauling is not a municipal service in Champaign-Urbana. Unless your lease says that the landlord provides and pays for hauling, you'll have to call a private hauler and arrange service. Look in the yellow pages under "garbage." (Note: references in your lease to sanitary fees are for the sewer system, not for garbage hauling).
  • Don't assume the garage comes with the house; make sure the lease says you are renting the "house and garage." If the house has no garage but you plan to park in the driveway, make sure the lease says Lessee may park in the driveway at no extra cost.
  • Zoning laws prohibit more than four unrelated people from living together in a single family home. The tenants, as well as the landlords, can be held liable by the city for violating the law. For more information, go to the section of this handbook on "Zoning." Every person who will be living in the house should be listed on the lease.
  • Be especially careful about including in your lease a list of all appliances that the landlord will "provide and maintain." Don't assume the washer and dryer in the basement will be repaired by the landlord if one breaks down. They may have just been left in the house by previous tenants.
  • Protecting your deposit is a bigger job with a house. Many tenants report being charged at the end of the lease for leaving trash in the yard, damage to a porch, lawn care, cleaning out the basement, etc. Both when you move in and when you move out, you should take photographs of the basement, attic, front and back yards and the porch, in addition to photographs of walls, floors, insides of oven, fridge and cabinets and all fixtures.
  • Damage deposit refund law does not cover houses (except in the City of Urbana). If the house is in Champaign, Savoy or anyplace other than Urbana, be sure your lease states the time period for refund of the deposit and requires the landlord to provide you with an itemized statement of damages within a certain time period. A sample clause appears in the section of this handbook on signing a lease.