unpacking apartment renters

Renting a new home or apartment can be an exciting time. Your head will be filled will plans for moving, decorating, and learning a new neighborhood. But before you sign the lease, it’s important that you understand what you’re putting your signature to. There is no standard “one size fits all” lease, and many landlords or property companies can add some unexpected quirks to their leases that may come back to surprise you later if you haven’t thoroughly evaluated the contract. 

Following, we’ll cover several important elements of a renter’s lease to give you the tools you need to evaluate your potential tenancy. 

Time Frame of the Lease

While many leases are for a full calendar year, some have longer or shorter terms: six months, for example, or 18 months. If you’re looking to settle into your new rental for a significant period of time, a short lease may not suit you. Likewise, if your residence is likely to be temporary, be sure you’re not getting locked into a long-term lease that will be costly to get out of. In addition, ensure that the lease outlines clearly how much notice you are expected to give the landlord before you move out. Commonly, landlords expect between one to three months’ notice before you vacate the property, and not following these rules can incur fees. 

What Does the Rent Include? 

This information should be spelled out clearly in the lease. Are you responsible for utilities separately, or are utilities included in the rent? What about water, and trash pickup? What is the cost of the security deposit, and under what circumstances might you have to forfeit your deposit when you move out? Some leases will expect you to pay an extra deposit if you have a pet, and often, this isn’t refundable. There may also be surprise additions such as “move-in” fees. Be certain in advance what you’re signing on for. 

Guest Policies

Some leases stipulate restrictions on overnight or long-term guests. If you have friends who may be crashing with you on occasion, be certain that there are no policies in the lease that prohibit this. 


Most leases will prohibit the practice of subletting or renting your rental out to someone else, either as a roommate or while you’re not living on the premises. The fees and penalties for breaking these rules can be stiff, so understand what the lease stipulates if you have any plans to sublet. 

Is Renter’s Insurance Required? 

Renters’ insurance, sometimes called tenants’ insurance, is an insurance policy that provides some of the benefits of homeowners’ insurance but does not include coverage for the dwelling itself (since you don’t own that) with the exception of small changes you might make to the structure. In essence, if your belongings inside the dwelling are damaged or stolen, the policy will pay for those. Some landlords require tenants’ insurance, others leave it up to the renter. It’s a good idea, particularly if your belongings have any significant value. 

In Connecticut, Petruzelo Insurance offers personal and business policies, including renter’s insurance, that fit your needs and protect your belongings. Call us at 866-479-3327 or visit our web site for more information.