Understanding the Lease Process
Q. What is the best time of year to begin looking for housing?
A. You can begin your search at anytime of the year. It depends on your needs and desires. If you want to live close to campus we recommend that you start your search 2-3 months in advance of the month you wish to begin your tenancy.
Q. How do I begin my search for housing?
A. Searching long distance can be difficult and deceiving. You can begin your search at home by visiting The University Corporation Faculty/Staff Housing Resources Website at:
Q. How much can my landlord raise my rent?
A. Refer to latest edition of Landlord-Tenant Handbook for rental units at http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/.
Q. Are pets allowed?
A. This may seem like an obvious question, if you're planning on bringing a pet with you to your new home, but too often prospective tenants forget to ask about this if they don't have pets and don't want to live in a noisy apartment complex with dogs barking. Also, some landlords don't allow pets, but will make an exception for non-intrusive creatures if you pay a pet deposit.
Q. Can I get promises made by landlords in writing?
A. This is by far the most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for an apartment. Everybody knows that a landlord can and sometimes does promise you just about anything if they think you're interested. New appliances, new laundry facilities, re-painting, re-finishing hardwood floors, and a host of other improvements frequently fail to materialize if the tenant didn't have the foresight to get the landlord to put it in a contract. Similarly, any problems you have with the lease, needs to be changed, in writing, on the lease, before it is signed. Merely having the landlord's word that a pet "won't be a problem," although the lease forbids it can cause a lot of trouble if they change their mind once you've locked yourself into a year's residency.
Move in - Move out
Q. Should I get renter's insurance?
A. Yes! Everyone should get renter's insurance, and in fact, on occasion, it is a requirement of the lease for your apartment. Your belongings are not covered by the building's insurance policy.
Q. What's the parking situation?
A. It's surprising how many people neglect to ask this basic question. Many apartments come with one parking space – which could pose a problem if you and your partner or roommate both has a car. Ask about on street parking…what is it like.
Q. Which utilities are included?
A. Oftentimes advertisements boast that "utilities are included". But not every landlord considers the same thing to be utilities. Water, heat, gas and electric are standard utilities, but some landlords charge for things such as "refuse collection." Ask very specifically which utilities are meant to be included, and make certain they are enumerated on the lease. If they are not, append the lease to include these specifics.
Q. Is there an early-out clause?
A. There is always a chance you'll have to break your lease, whether that is because of a job change, a death in the family, or just whim. Even if you don't anticipate having to leave your apartment before the end of the contract, ask to have a clause put in outlining a procedure in which you could break the lease should you have to, and the exact penalties imposed upon you (be reasonable, and make as many concessions to the landlord as possible).
Q. Can I re-paint or make other improvements?
A. This is one of the trickiest aspects of renting an apartment. Nothing is worse than finding a perfect space only to have the walls painted some hideous color. Some landlords are happy to let you change the color scheme; others aren't. Any policies regarding the tenants' abilities to make changes to the physical structure of the house – including painting – should be written into the lease. Many landlords will not allow tenants to make any physical changes to the property whatsoever, others require written consent, and still others care very little. Sometimes, if the work you do is an improvement, you can negotiate it off your rent – for example, if you install a security bolt on your front door, you may be able to get the landlord to agree to let you take the cost of the bolt off your rent.
Q. Where is the laundry?
A. Sounds like an obvious question but is often overlooked when apartment hunting. Some apartment complexes don't have laundry on premises. This could be important to you if you want your laundry in your unit or building.
Q. Is there a working fire/security system?
A. Another often overlooked aspect of apartment hunting is determining the relative safety of the building itself. Has the building been inspected? What is the fire system like—do the fire alarms all have batteries? Is there a fire alarm that connects all of the units and any common areas? Does the building have a security system? If you're concerned about safety then you should look for buildings that have security doors which req2uire a tenant to buzz in a visitor, and apartment doors that have, at the minimum, a security deadbolt. Some smaller, privately-owned units have security systems installed on windows and doors, which can help you sleep better at night.
Q. Can I take an inventory?
A. Yes! We strongly urge you to make a written inventory of the condition of the apartment and furnishings either prior to or as soon as possible after occupancy. A detailed inventory of the premises will reduce the possibility of future misunderstanding or problems when you vacate. Such a list should be signed by at least one tenant and the landlord, and a copy given to each. It's also a good idea to take photographs of the apartment – with a date-stamp camera – before you move in to record any pre-existing damages.
Q. Are pets allowed?
A. This may seem like an obvious question, if you’re planning on bringing a pet with you to your new home, but too often prospective tenants forget to ask about this if they don’t have pets and don’t want to live in a noisy apartment complex with dogs barking. Also, some landlords don’t allow pets, but will make an exception for non-intrusive creatures if you pay a pet deposit.
Q. How long will it take to get my security deposit refunded?
A. Security deposits must be refunded to you within 21 days after you move out. In order to get your full security deposit back, you must leave your apartment in the same condition as when you moved in. The landlord may deduct from your security deposit for any cleaning that is needed, unpaid rent or damages to the apartment.
Refer to latest edition of Landlord-Tenant Handbook for rental units at http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/.
Q. To get back my security deposit?
A. RETURN THE KEYS. Give the landlord/manager your forwarding address (failure to do so may void any "time" rights you have).