For off-campus apartments, you will need to sign a lease (rental contract). Be sure to read the lease carefully before signing. When you sign a lease, you are legally committed to the conditions of the document, including payment of rent for all months of the agreement. Please be aware that most leases obligate you for one year or more. Most landlords will require a security deposit ranging from one or two months’ rent. This deposit will be returned to you when you vacate the apartment, provided nothing has been damaged and you have maintained the conditions of the lease. You should be certain that you have found a satisfactory living situation before you sign any sort of a lease, as this is a binding legal contract.
You MAY need the following to execute a lease:
• Driver’s License, Passport, visa, or other proof of your identity
• Financial declaration (proof of income or bank statement)
• Bank account (to pay by check if applicable)
• Social Security Number
• Deposit and fees (security deposit, redecoration fee, application fee, pet fee, etc.)
Make sure you find compatible roommates that you can communicate with about what you expect from them and what they expect from you while you’re living together! Make sure that you talk with potential roommate(s) you are considering living with and discuss your daily habits, schedules, pet peeves as well as make sure you feel comfortable living together. Here are some discussion topics to get you started:
- How much can you afford to pay for an apartment/house, etc?
- How will deposits and monthly joint bills be paid? (Security, utility deposits; internet, cable, gas & electric bills, etc.)
- How much privacy do you need? For instance, do you need a private bathroom; private bedroom?
- How would you describe what “clean” means to you?
- How will you handle general cleaning responsibilities? How often is it necessary to clean?
- What are your sleeping habits/patterns? (Night owl, early riser?)
- How do you feel about overnight guests?
- How do you feel about noise and music?
- What are your study habits? Do you need total quiet or would you prefer background noise?
- What temperature do you like the apartment/house to be? (In the winter? In the summer? Warmer? Cooler?)
Choose your roommate(s) wisely! When renting together with other students, you should keep in mind that if you jointly sign a lease or other contract, you are taking on legal obligations and some options you may have in University housing will not be available to you.
- You may be financially responsible for the entire cost if one or more of your roommates does not pay their rent or utilities, or if they cause damage to the landlord’s property which may be deducted form your security deposit.
- If your parents co-sign the lease with you, these financial obligations may fall on them if a problem arises.
- Landlord’s are not obligated to allow you to break a lease or contract prior to the established end date. If you sign a lease, and later change your mind, you may not be able to break the lease.
- Landlords are unlikely to provide you a “room change” if you no longer get along with a roommate, and you may not be able to require a roommate you no longer get along with to move out of a residence if they are on the lease.
Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
You must know what your Rights & Responsibilities are as a prospective tenant before you sign a lease with any Landlord! There are certain rental bulletins, documents, and acts that you can review to help yourself be well-versed in this area on the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Landlord-Tenant Information page. Not only should you review the content on this webpage, but here are some tips to keep in mind before signing your lease:
- Read your lease in its ENTIRETY before you sign anything!
- If you don’t understand something, ask specific questions about it.
- If someone else (parents, guardians, etc.) will be assisting in payment of the bill – make sure that they read the lease before you sign!
- Understand the difference between a Joint (and several) and an Individual Lease and which one you are signing when you rent an off-campus apartment/home!
- An individual lease means that each person is only responsible for their portion of the unit lease or bed space. If your roommate ends up not coming back for the spring semester, you’re not responsible for their payment.
- A joint and several lease is if two or more people sign a lease then they are jointly responsible for the rental amount and any damages throughout the period of the lease regardless if someone moves out.
- How much is the security deposit?
- Do you have the Property Manager/provider’s contact information?
- Who do you call when there is a maintenance issue?
Tenant/Landlord Law Resources:
- Security Deposit Laws of NJ
- Review the New Jersey Tenant’s Rights document.
- All landlords are required to supply each tenant with a copy of the “Truth in Renting” document. Make sure you receive this.
- If you are disabled, know your rights – Guidance for Disability Accommodation Rights for Owners and Occupants.
- Right of Entry
- Grounds for Eviction