While it doesn't offer any investment potential, renting an apartment is the choice for people in many different life situations: Saving for a down payment for a house. Can't afford to purchase a home. Planning to move in a few years. Not interested in the maintenance and repair of a home. No matter why you're renting an apartment, you can greatly improve the experience by knowing more about the financial and legal aspects.
A lease is a binding contract that lays out the conditions and responsibilities of a rental agreement, both for the owner and the renter. It stipulates the monthly rental price, payment due date, the length of the lease as well as what happens if one of you breaks the lease. Other information contained in the lease is which of you pays the utilities, if pets are allowed, and any other restrictions and requirements the landlord wants to include.
Read your lease agreement very carefully before you sign it. You will be held accountable for knowing everything included in the lease, even if you never read it! Also, keep a copy of the lease for your records. It may come in handy if you have a question about what you are or are not allowed to do.
If the landlord is not convinced that you will be able to make your payments, he or she may require you to get a cosigner. This is someone who will share financial responsibility for the lease. If for some reason you are unable to make the payments, the cosigner will then be responsible for making the payments.
You should avoid breaking a lease if at all possible. Each lease agreement has its own penalties for breaking the terms. Some only require the payment of a penalty. Some will require you to continue paying rent until the apartment is re-rented. Check your lease to make sure you can handle the financial ramifications before you break your lease.