Sydney began her real estate career in 2006 and is a born and raised Texan.
You are excited and nervous. You have been approved for an apartment.
Besides picking out furniture and getting utilities turned on, there's the daunting task of signing (and understanding) your TAA lease contract.
First, breathe. You are not the first, nor the last person to not "get" every paragraph of that excruciatingly long contract. Hopefully this will help you get at least the jist of it.
Should you need a more legal definition of any particular paragraph of the lease, I recommend consulting a lawyer or contacting the TAA directly.
Tip #1: Whenever you sign a lease the agent should go over each paragraph with you. Even when they do it can still be a little overwhelming. Do not hesitate to ask them to slow down or explain something more clearly. They shouldn't mind.
Tip #2: Treat the apartment as you would if you owned it and knew you had to live there forever. Report maintenance issues to the office as soon as possible. It's really just about respecting others' property the way you would want them to respect yours.
Tip #3: Always follow the community rules (that includes your guests as well) and you'll never have a problem!
Tip #4: Always communicate with the office personnel especially if you are going to be late on rent, etc. You may be surprised to find they are willing to work with you.
Paragraph One: Parties
The first paragraph of your TAA lease states all parties involved in the rental.
You (the resident) and the apartment complex (the owner) are entering into a legally binding contract in which you have agreed to rent the dwelling at the address listed in this paragraph.
Paragraph Two: Occupants
The second paragraph is to list the occupants, typically anyone under the age of 18 or a person over the age of 18 that will not be responsible for the lease.
Paragraph Three: Lease Term
This is perhaps the most important section of the lease because it lists your rental terms. The date your lease begins and the date it ends.
Basically how long the lease will be for; usually a 12 month term unless other arrangements have been agreed upon.
This paragraph will also tell you how many days notice you are required to give the apartment complex prior to moving out. Keep track of your lease end date. Typically you are required to give a 30-60 day notice.
Paragraph Four: Security Deposit
A security deposit is the amount an apartment complex requires you to pay as a deposit in the unit. In the event you break the lease or when you move out, there is damage, then the complex will use the deposit to apply to the damages or owed rents.
Otherwise, at the end of your lease, you get your deposit back minus any cleaning charges. Always make sure to do a walk-through with the manager to ensure you are not charged for things you shouldn't be. Take pictures of how you leave the apartment in case you need to dispute fees taken from your security deposit. Return the keys at the walk-through and do not leave without a copy of your "Move Out Inventory Form" signed by the manager that performed the walk-through.
It just makes sense to document, document, document.
Paragraph Five: Keys, Furniture and Affidavit of Move Out
This section tells you the number of keys that have been released to you for the unit, mailbox and access keys such as to the pool or laundry room. Make sure this is the number of keys you return to the complex.
This section will also state if the apartment will be rented furnished or unfurnished. That means whether it will or will not come with furniture supplied.
Paragraph Six: Rent and Charges
This paragraph is also very important to pay attention to as it relates to
1) How much you pay every month.
2) The date the rent is due every month.
3) Pro-rated rent is the amount you pay if your first month won't be a full month and you move in past the 1st-3rd.
4) Late fees are the amount you pay on the first day rent is late plus the amount that accrues daily until the rent is paid in full. The late fees are in addition to your rent amount. For example: $50 is charged for the first day rent is late and each additional day is $5 per day.
5) Fee for returned check will be found here. Typically $35-$50.
6) If you are not authorized for a pet in your dwelling and management finds out, they can charge you a first day fee and a daily fee. Meaning, the first day they become aware that you have an animal in the dwelling they can charge up to $100 plus a daily amount for however many days the animal is in the dwelling. For example, $10 a day.
Paragraph Seven: Utilities
This section will cover what utilites (if any) that the management will pay for and the items you will be responsible for.
The lease may say "We'll pay for the following items, if checked." The options typically found on the lease are gas, water, wastewater, electricity, trash, cable TV, master antenna, Internet service and other utilities.
The items that are checked will be what the complex is paying for. Anything left unchecked, you are responsible for.
This section will also cover the fee you could be assessed by the complex should you not have utilities turned on by the time you move in or if they are disconnected at anytime during your lease.
Paragraph Eight: Insurance
These days more and more apartment complexes are requiring renter's insurance so this is the section that will cover that.
It will simply be checked if you are required to obtain it. You should then be provided the amounts of coverage you are required to have. Contact your insurance company (the auto one) and add it on. It's really not that expensive. I say that from personal experience. (You won't see a link to anything here)
Paragraph Nine: Security Devices
This is the section that covers what the apartment complex is required by Texas law to provide on your behalf. Items such as window latches, a peephole at the front door or exterior door, a pin lock or security bar to the sliding door, deadbolts to exterior doors.
This section also covers any replacements fees you may face should you ever need the items replaced or repaired.
Paragraph Ten: Special Provisions
This section is typically reserved for anything the management needs to add so make sure it is what you have agreed upon. Instructions are also included in this section that may not be covered under a section in the lease. It is none-the-less binding.
For example, if the apartment complex doesn't allow you to store boats on the property they may say something like "No RVs, trailers, boats, etc."
Or "All payments made after the 10th must be made by money order."
Paragraph Eleven: Unlawful Early Move Out, Reletting Charge
A reletting charge is the amount owed in addition to past due rents, charges and late fees that you may already owe at the time you abandoned the dwelling or been asked to move out. It is typically a percentage of the market rent.
Paragraph Twelve: Damages and Reimbursement
Bascially, you are agreeing to pay for any damages caused by you or your guests. Obviously if it is something that was the fault of the complex, you will not be required to pay for those damages.
Keep in mind this can be for anything from a hole punched in the wall to a toilet overflowing (due to obstruction) and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to other units.
Paragraph Thirteen: Contractual Lien and Property Left in Apartment
Should you not complete the terms of your lease by skipping or being evicted, this paragraph covers the rights of the property to store or sell your items left behind and applied to your balance.
Paragraph Fourteen: Failing to Pay First Month's Rent
If you sign a lease prior to moving in and then decide you don't want to move in (and you don't pay the first month's rent) then the rent can be accelerated. In other words you will still owe the any rents due until the unit is re-rented to another party.
Always keep in mind that you are signing a legally binding contract when you sign a lease; regardless if you move in or not.
Paragraph Fifteen: Rent Increases and Lease Contract Changes
Once a lease contract is signed your rent cannot be increased until the end of he lease term.
Typically, the complex will provide you a letter with your renewal options prior to your lease ending; around 30-45 days prior.
Paragraph Sixteen: Delay of Occupancy
If for any reason you are delayed from moving in, it doesn't mean you are out of a lease. It just means the complex must work with you on the rent amount until you are able to move in. Otherwise, you will have three days after notice is received of delayed occupancy to terminate your contract.
Talk to your apartment personnel about arrangements if it is their fault the occupancy is being delayed.
Paragraph Seventeen: Disclosure Rights
"If someone requests information on you or your rental history for law-enforcement, governmental, or business purposes, we may provide it."
This is considered the apartment complex's disclosure of who they will release information to. Not to worry, apartment personnel are usually very diligent in verifying who is requesting your information.
The complex may also verify your utilities using your information in the event they need to.
Paragraph Eighteen: Community Policies and Rules
You and your guests are required to follow community rules and policies set in place by the property's management company. The "rules are considered part of the lease contract" and you should keep in mind that you are held liable for anything your guests do while on the property.
Meaning, if they are continuously causing a disturbance, you can be asked to move out.
Paragraph Nineteen: Limitations on Conduct
This section explains your authorized usage of the property. For example glass containers being prohibited at the pool is pretty common in the lease contract.
You are responsible for observing the rules of each ammenity.
This paragraph also lets you know that the management has a right to regulate your patio and balcony area, how movers move you in or out and even the activities allowed in common areas.
For example, you can't use your patio or balcony area as storage and expect management not to say something to you. It affects the way their property appears so keep that in mind.
Paragraph Twenty: Prohibited Conduct
This is probably one of the more important lease paragraphs but the one that most people never even bother to read.
This paragraph is pretty self-explanatory but you'd be surprised how many people disregard it.
You, your occupants and even your guests "may not engage in illegal activities, criminal conduct, behaving in a loud or obnoxious manner, disturbing or threatening the rights, comfort, health, safety, or convenience of others." (Others refers to other residents, agents or employees)
Examples of such conduct would include drug related activities, discharging a firearm or even injuring the reputation of the property "by making bad-faith allegations to others."
Read this section carefully to have a full understanding of what you and your guests can and cannot do.
Paragraph Twenty-One: Parking
The apartment complex can regulate the parking lots and that includes assigned parking, monitoring broken down vehicles, etc.
The complex has the right to have your vehicle towed if you are found to be in violation of this paragraph so make sure to read what is considered a broken down vehicle and if there are assigned parking spots.
Paragraph Twenty-Two: Release of Resident
Basically, in order to be released from a binding lease contract; refer to paragraphs 10, 16, 23, 31 or 37 to see if you qualify under those paragraphs to break your lease.
Death: You are given permission to break your lease if you die and are the sole resident. Keep in mind, according to the State of Texas, you will still be liable for all rents until your unit is completely vacated.
Paragraph Twenty-Three: Military Personnel Clause
You may also terminate the lease under this paragraph if you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and you receive orders to deploy or relocate.
Paragraph Twenty-Four: Resident Safety and Loss
Essentially, you and your guests are responsible for your own safety, including smoke detectors, other detection devices, locking your doors and windows, etc.
The complex will furnish smoke detectors and working batteries when you first move in but you are responsible for replacing the batteries, etc.
In this paragraph, you'll find that the complex is not liable to you or any guest for injury, damage or loss of personal property, etc.
Paragraph Twenty-Five: Condition of the Premises and Alterations
You are accepting the unit you have rented, as is, when you move in.
When you move in you will be given a form called an Inventory Condition Form. Use this form to notate any issues in the apartment that you do not want to be held responsible for when you move out. You are typically given three days from the date you move in to get this form back to the apartment personnel. (Always request a copy of anything you turn into the office.)
You would not want to pay for something that was already damaged when you move in so notating it on the Inventory Condition Form will protect you from that.
Read this paragraph carefully because it also covers what you can and cannot make changes to while you occupy the unit.
Paragraph Twenty-Six: Requests, Repairs and Malfunctions
If there is ever a need for maintenance repairs in your unit, ALWAYS hand write a note, turn it into the office and obtain a copy of it. This is for your protection as well as the management's.
In the event of an emergency you are not required to turn anything in writing in but call the after-hours emergency number ASAP. You can be held liable for any damages that were not reported in a timely manner.
Emergency issues include: water leaks, electrical problems, broken door latches, etc. AIR CONDITION GOING OUT IS NOT CONSIDERED AN EMERGENCY.
Paragraph Twenty-Seven: Animals
This paragraph goes into more detail concerning animals that you may have in your dwelling.
If you are going to have an animal you must tell the apartment management and sign a separate Animal Addendum.
It is common to pay pet rent on top of an animal deposit and both amounts will be listed on the Animal Addendum.
If you do not have an animal on your lease, keep in mind that even your guests cannot then bring an animal to your apartment.
Animals may be removed if not authorized by the apartment complex.
Paragraph Twenty-Eight: When We May Enter
This section pertains to when apartment personnel or management may enter your unit.
For example, if you or a guest is present then maintenance may enter your unit to may repairs, etc. If you are not present then they may only enter if:
1) if they have provided adequate notice (typically 24-48 hours) that they will need to enter and lists the reason for entry
2) if you have submitted a maintenance request for repair or other items
If you are not home, maintenance or contractors are required to leave you a notice that can be easily seen by you that they were in your unit.
Paragraph Twenty-Nine: Multiple Residents
This paragraph lets you know that all parties that have signed the lease are responsible for it and how the deposit check is dispersed at the end of the lease or move out.
Usually the box for "one check jointly" is marked unless other arrangements have been reached between the lease holders and the apartment complex.
Paragraph Thirty: Replacements and Subletting
Basically, when you sublet, you are finding another tenant for the apartment unit you rent because you are leaving.
You will always need the apartment complex's permission to do anything of the sort. Finding a replacement tenant doesn't necessarily mean they will be approved by the apartment management.
When the new tenant is approved, the relet fee is usually waived but you do not get your security deposit back and so long as everything else is paid in full.
The new tenant either signs their own lease with the complex or you are still responsible for the remainder of the lease.
Paragraph Thirty-One: Responsibilities of Owner
This paragraph covers everything the apartment complex is agreeing that they will be responsible for.
Some of the items listed in this section include keeping the property reasonably clean, maintain hot water, heating, air condition, comply with Fair Housing Laws, etc. If they violate any of the items listed in this section, you may have reason to terminate lease.
Keep in mind, in order to terminate the lease by this section you must:
1) be current on all rents and any other amounts owed to the complex and made the request in writing
2) submit a second written request for the repair at which the complex should fix in a timely manner
3) if the repair still isn't made, you may then terminate the lease by giving a final written notice
READ THIS SECTION OF YOUR LEASE CAREFULLY as there is more described in this paragraph but I do not want anyone to misconstrue anything I say here as legal advice.
Paragraph Thirty-Two: Default of Resident
You are considered to be in default of your lease if you are behind on rent but also if you violate any section of the lease, you abandon the dwelling or are evicted, you are found to have lied on your rental application, you are arrested for a felony*, illegal drugs are found in your apartment, and even if you make a false claim against the complex "to an employee of a utility company or the government".
*Such felonies could include physical harm to another person, controlled substances, sex-related crimes etc. Refer to the lease contract for specified crimes.
Paragraph Thirty-Three: Miscellaneous
There are a variety of items covered in this paragraph of your TAA lease so you'll want to read over this paragraph in its entirety on your own.
Some of the items that you may find here are mostly disclaimers for the property or that "written notice to or from our managers constitutes notice to or from us."
In this day and age of technology you may be interested to know that notices must be handwritten and signed, E-mail is not a valid form of notice. Faxes are ok.
Paragraph Thirty-Four: Payments
For this section just keep in mind that if you owe a balance and turn in a rent payment, the amount you turn in may first be applied to any outstanding balance you may have with the property. In the event you turn in rent and a portion of it is used for an unpaid balance then you can still accrue late fees until paid in full.
Paragraph Thirty-Five: TAA Membership
This paragraph is to let you know that when you signed the lease, the management company or property were entitled to use the TAA lease contract because they were TAA Members.
Paragraph Thirty-Six: Security Guidelines
Here you will find a list of crime prevention tips that you should read and share with anyone in the household and even guests. It is a combination of common sense tips and some that are rarely thought about.
This list of tips is too extensive to list here but a few of the safety items include:
Calling 911 in a true emergency.
Getting to know your neighbors so you know who people are and will notice someone "out of place."
Keep keys handy when walking to and from car.
Use the deadbolt when you are home, it's there for a reason.
Anytime you leave your home, let someone know where you are headed and when to expect you back.
Have someone check on your apartment if you will be gone for extended periods of time.
Always check the backseat before getting into your car.
Paragraph Thirty-Seven: Move Out Notice
As stated in Paragraph 3, before you move out you must give a written notice to the apartment management by the number of days they require.
For example, if you are required to give a 30-day-move-out-notice then 30 days before you intend to leave is when you should provide this to them.
KEEP IN MIND that if you turn in a move-out notice and change your mind but the complex has already re-rented your unit, you must move or make arrangements to transfer. The complex will try to work with you as much as they can but they won't lose a new tenant because you changed your mind.
Paragraph Thirty-Eight: Move Out Procedures
This paragraph specifies the process of moving out to ensure all parties are covered. Basically, you'll make sure you've paid everything that is owed, turned in your notice, done the walk-through with management, turned in keys, etc.
Turn in your forwarding address with the move-out notice and again on the Move-Out Inventory Condition Form to ensure you get any deposits owed to you.
Paragraph Thirty-Nine: Cleaning
Part of the move-out procedures will be cleaning the apartment. I always tell people to leave the unit as it was when you moved in and you should be ok.
The small things people often overlook in the clean are things like drip pans on the stove, cleaning the fridge, replacing burned out light bulbs, air filters, etc.
Take pictures of everything down to the toilet. I say this because let's say one person in the office signs off on your move-out but then someone else processes the Inventory Condition Form and lists that the toilet was lef t dirty; you are now going to be charged for that cleaning part. If you have a photo you can show you cleaned it and the misunderstanding is cleared up.
Paragraph Forty: Move Out Inspection
This is the walk through I keep mentioning and very important. I always recommend to tenants to do the walk through.
You'll meet with a representative of the complex and walk through your unit together to address anything that needs cleaned or replaced before you turn in the keys.
Some staff will give you the chance to do the little things before you turn in keys.
KEEP IN MIND there is such a thing as normal wear and tear. For example, if the carpet is ten years old by the time you move out, it is highly unlikely you'll be charged for dirty or frayed carpet that is going to have to be replaced now anyway.
And yes, you can and will be charged for those small keys if you don't turn them in.
Paragraph Forty-One: Security Deposit Deductions and Other Charges
You will receive a breakdown of the deposit, minus any deductions that the apartment complex has 30 days to send you after you've moved out.
There is a big misconception that they'll have your deposit waiting in the office for you when you turn in the keys. The complex must have time to itemize any deductions and/or how much you owe or how much they are refunding to you.
Paragraph Forty-Two: Deposit Return, Surrender and Abandon
The complex will mail the security deposit refund minus any cleaning fees, etc. to the address you provided.
You have completely surrendered the apartment the day after your move-out date and you have returned all keys.
You have abandoned the dwelling when it appears everyone has left the apartment, your belongings have been removed or you haven't paid rent or responded to any requests from management.
Read this paragraph in full to make sure you understand every detail about how you'll get your deposit back and when you are no longer responsible for the unit.
Paragraph Forty-Three: Originals and Attachments
The standard TAA Lease is 6 pages in itself but there are other forms you may have also signed along with the lease. Those items will be listed (or check marked) under this section and you should also receive a copy of everything you've signed.
For example, if you signed an Animal Addendum it will be listed here. This is to acknowledge that it is part of the lease contract.
This section is also where you sign in full and also date; you have already initialed the bottom of each page before it.
The representative will also sign this page.
Texas Apartment Association
The Texas Apartment Association regulates the TAA lease in Texas and is a wonderful resource of information for renter's and owners alike.
Find the actual TAA lease from their website for your convenience.
About the Author and Disclaimer
Sydney Spence was licensed as a real estate agent in the State of Texas in 2006.
Sydney worked in leasing for two years and was a property manager for five years at a complex she used the TAA lease and achieved 100% occupancy.
Sydney Spence is not an attorney and is not providing legal advice.
All information provided is public information through the Texas Apartment Association. Each lease if reflective of the community's standards that is executing the lease and varies property to property.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Sydney Spence