When planning to move into a new apartment, one of the first things you will need to do is sign a lease with your landlord or property management company. A lease is a legally binding document that outlines the terms of the rental and what each party is responsible for. This protects both the landlord and the tenant by making expectations clear through the apartment lease terms. 

If you’re renting for the first time, you might be wondering how apartment leases work. Here’s what to expect from your apartment lease when moving in. 

What is an apartment lease? 

As previously stated, an apartment lease is a document that outlines the terms of your rental. The lease is legally binding once signed by both parties, which means that either has the option to pursue legal action if the lease terms are not upheld. The lease details a variety of key policies, like how much rent you’ll pay, when it’s due, and the condition the apartment needs to be kept in. 

How do apartment leases work? 

Once you’ve been approved for an apartment, the landlord or management company will provide you with a copy of the lease. Both you and the landlord will need to sign the lease before it is binding. If there is more than one person older than 18 in your apartment (as is the case when you have roommates), each adult will need to sign the lease. 

Before agreeing to the apartment lease terms, be sure to read it thoroughly and review it with your landlord to discuss any questions or concerns. If there are any terms of the lease that aren’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask questions. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page before the document is signed. 

Once the apartment lease terms are agreed upon and the lease signed, you’ll be able to move into the apartment on the day indicated in the lease. Be sure to keep a copy of the lease somewhere safe throughout your time in the apartment for easy reference. Many apartments now allow online signatures and digital storage, which makes it easier to keep track of your lease documents. 

Common Apartment Lease Terms

These are some of the most common terms and conditions you’ll see when reviewing an apartment lease. Keep in mind that these terms can vary from lease to lease, depending on the individual apartment and your unique situation. 

Length of Lease

This is the amount of time you will be living in the apartment. Many apartments offer year-long leases with the option to renew at the end of the term. Some leases are short-term leases, meaning they last about six months. Even more flexible than short-term leases are month-to-month leases, common in some cities. With a month-to-month lease, you’ll typically need to give 30 days notice before moving out, but you can do so at any time. 

Rent Amount and Due Date

Another key lease term is the rental amount. This should specify the total rent you’ll need to pay each month and when it’s due. Your lease should also specify how rent should be paid—most landlords now accept payment online, but some may still require you to pay via check. Additionally, this term should specify whether there are any late fees, how much they are and when they are applied to the account. 


When you initially move into your apartment, you will probably have to pay a security deposit. There should be a term in your lease specifying how much the deposit is, when and how it will be returned at the end of the lease, and what condition the apartment must be in to receive a full refund. 

Occupancy Limits

This term specifies who can occupy the unit. In most cases, only those named on the lease, both adults and children, can live in the unit. Some apartments will allow residents to sublet their apartment with permission from the landlord, while others prohibit subleases. Some leases may also have terms prohibiting long-term house guests. 


Additionally, many leases have terms defining whether any pets can live on the premises, and if so, what types of pets are allowed. Some apartments charge a pet fee, deposit or both for animals living in the apartment. Included in these terms will also be the rules by which pet owners must abide, such as cleaning up after pets, keeping pets leashed while outside of the apartment and so on. 


This term specifies what type of maintenance the owner will complete and what types of maintenance the resident is responsible for. For example, the resident is typically responsible for keeping the apartment clean and fixing any damage they cause, while the landlord is typically responsible for preventive maintenance, regular repairs and fixing damage not caused by the resident. 

Behavior Restrictions

Some leases have terms that restrict tenants from engaging in disorderly behaviors. This could include hosting loud parties, practicing music, or excessive volume from televisions and stereos. 

What Do You Need To Lease An Apartment? 

Before you can lease an apartment, you’ll need to go through an application process. What you need to lease an apartment typically includes proof of identification and income, whether that’s through a pay stub, contract, or tax return. 

Many apartments will also conduct a background check or a credit check. Some apartments may also ask for previous rental history and even references from your previous landlords. Having these documents ready ahead of time can help the lease process run smoothly. 

Signing on the Dotted Line Has Never Been so Easy

Apartment leases are necessary to protect both the tenant and the landlord. They set the stage for a comfortable working relationship, but that doesn’t mean they have to be scary. With transparent pricing, a simple application process, and dedicated team members to help you understand the lease, Southern Management makes it easy to find your next apartment.  Contact us today to learn more. We can’t wait to welcome you home!