Finding an apartment can be challenging enough, but choosing a lease type and length is a delicate process unto itself.  You’ll be faced with a lot of options, and often with a variety of lease lengths and corresponding rent rates to choose from.  To make your apartment search a little simpler, here is a guide to your basic apartment lease options.

What Is An Apartment Lease?

A lease is a contract between the renter and the landlord that specifies the conditions of the rental, including the services provided during the lease term, the rent amount regularly due to the landlord, and the length of the tenant’s stay.  Remember that lease rules vary from state to state and property to property, so a long-term lease in Arizona may not have the same requirements as a long-term lease in New York.  Likewise, stabilized rent laws will differ between buildings and states.

Long-Term Leases

A long-term lease, or fixed-term lease, is the most common type of contract, usually set for a minimum of one year.  Upon the lease’s expiration, you can choose to leave the apartment (with proper advance notice), live there month-to-month (see below), or renew your lease, sometimes at a special reduced rate (offered as an incentive to renew).  Note that, typically, the shorter the lease, the higher the rent rate.

Month-to-Month Leases

A month-to-month lease, or periodic lease, allows the tenant or landlord to terminate the lease at any time.  Month-to-month leases are generally self-renewing.  Renters can expect the monthly rent rate to be much higher than that of a fixed-term lease.  However, renting month-to-month gives you the flexibility to move out with far less notice than with other lease types.


Subleasing, or subletting, occurs when the original leaseholder rents his apartment to someone not on the original lease.  This is often an option renters choose who travel or who want to leave the apartment early but avoid breaking a lease.  Rules about subleasing vary from apartment to apartment and contract to contract, so if you are thinking about subleasing your apartment, make sure you know what is allowed and what is not.  For example, some apartments will want to run a background or credit check on the potential subletter, while others have no requirements, but will hold the original tenant fully accountable for any missed payments or damages incurred by the subletter.  Likewise, if you want to sublease from a renter, make sure you know what you are responsible for, from bills to apartment behavior.

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