Unless you are an attorney, reading over your new lease can feel like you are trying to read a foreign language! Here are some definitions to help you translate your new lease agreement and fully understand what you are signing:

The lessee is YOU, the renter or tenant.

The lessor is your landlord or property provider.

Joint and several liability, according to Nolo.com, means “one for all and all for one.” The landlord can request rent from just one co-tenant without any regard to different rates roommates pay for their share. If your roommate flakes, you are responsible for their portion as well as your own. Additionally, if one of your roommates does something stupid and gets a termination notice, you are also required to leave. “Only landlords can evict tenants. This means that co-tenants cannot force each other out. If your roommate becomes insufferable, you’ll have to work it out between the two of you unless the roommate’s behavior is also a violation of a lease or rental agreement clause (for example, illegal drug use). Although a violation of this nature would justify the termination of both your tenancies (joint and several liability!), you might get lucky if your landlord pities you and lets you stay,” according to Nolo.com.

A co-signer is a person who signs his or her name to a lease to financially back the tenant(s). If the tenant(s) fail to pay rent, the co-signer is fully responsible for the unpaid rent. Landlords may require a co-signer when renting to a student or someone with a poor credit history. It is recommended that EACH roommate have a co-signer, so that the debt can, in theory, be evenly distributed, and not one co-signer is responsible for the whole group.

An assignment is an agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant by which the new tenant takes over the lease of a rental unit and becomes responsible to the landlord. Typically, the original tenant carries no further responsibility to the lease. Read your lease, as there are often fees and paperwork associated with a change of tenant. An example of when this might happen is when you no longer wish to live with your roommates and need to find a replacement.

A sublease is a separate rental agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant to whom the original tenant rents all or part of the rental unit. The new tenant is called a “sub-tenant.” The agreement between the original tenant and the landlord remains in force, and the original tenant continues to be responsible for paying the rent to the landlord and for other tenant obligations. Read your lease, as not all property providers allow subleasing. An example of when a sublease might occur is if you are gone temporarily for summer or studying abroad. It is recommended that if you are leaving permanently, you assign the lease to someone else rather than sublease, freeing yourself from any legal obligations.

An eviction notice is a three-day notice that the landlord services on the tenant when the tenant has violated the lease or rental agreement. The three-day notice usually instructs the tenant to either leave the rental unit or comply with the lease or rental agreement (for example, by paying past-due rent) within the three-day period.
Eviction is a court-administered proceeding for removing a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant has violated the rental agreement or lease or did not comply with a notice, ending the tenancy (also called an unlawful detainer lawsuit).

Habitable rental units are fit for human beings to live in. A rental unit that substantially complies with building and safety code standards that materially affect tenants’ health and safety is said to be “habitable.” Some examples of conditions that make a unit uninhabitable include dysfunctional outer door and window locks, broken heater in winter, lack of hot water or a roach and rodent infested living space, among others. Both the lessor and lessee are responsible for keeping a rental habitable.

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party meets with people in dispute to help them resolve their conflict. Mediation at UCSB is voluntary, confidential, free and available to everyone.

Renter’s insurance covers losses of property due to circumstances such as fire or theft. Your landlord is not responsible for covering the loss of your items if such an event were to occur. Renter’s insurance also protects the tenant against liability if damage is done to property or if someone is hurt on the premises.

A security deposit is a fee that the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of tenancy that can be used for unpaid rent, damages or cleaning upon move out. Landlords can charge up to two times the amount of rent for unfurnished rentals and up to three times for furnished units. No later than 21 days after the tenant(s) have vacated the rental unit, the landlord is required to provide the remaining portion of the security deposit, as well as an itemized statement and copies of receipts (if charged over $125).

Wear and tear is the allowed standard for unavoidable deterioration of the rental unit from normal use or aging and cannot be charged out of the security deposit. “Ordinary” or “normal” wear and tear, which typically relates to carpet, drapes, walls and paint, is an ambiguous concept that may differ depending on the landlord. Damage above “normal” wear-and-tear can be charged from your security deposit.

Have questions about your lease? Need a place to live? Stop by Community Housing Office (CHO) on the 3rd floor of the UCen, where we are more than happy to help you!