Signing a Lease

The last step in the process of finding a place to live is probably the most important: reading and signing the lease. A lease is a contract conveying the right to possession of real estate to a tenant for a designated length of time and usually for a specified rent. It is crucial that you read the entire lease carefully and understand all its terms and provisions. Many of the problems that can arise in a rental situation can be forestalled by simply understanding what is in the agreement. Remember, anyone 18 years or older who signs a rental contract can be legally bound by its terms.

Although most landlords in the Ithaca area require a lease, you may be able to rent a place without entering into some form of contract. When you rent housing without a lease, you have the full right of possession and reasonable use of the property, just as you would with a written lease. You are entitled to one month's notice from the landlord that you must vacate the property. In turn you must give the landlord one month's notice of your intent to leave. If you do not leave as promised, the rent may be increased substantially, or you may be evicted.

However, remember that memories become vague with time, and disputes may arise over verbal agreements made in the past. Some of the benefits of having a lease agreement are that the rent is usually constant, and the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenant are clearly defined.