Whether you are looking to live in an apartment complex, a townhouse or your friend’s basement, it is customary to sign a lease agreement. Landlords could choose to include a security deposit or other fees in a lease in addition to the monthly rental rate. What are some of the factors that could determine how a rental agreement is structured?

Credit Score

Typically, those who have a higher credit score are more likely to pay their bills on time. Therefore, you may be able to convince the landlord to reduce the security deposit or other associated fees. It may also be possible to have someone co-sign the lease with you to get the best possible terms.


Pets can be messy even when you do your best to clean up after them. For instance, they can leave urine stains in the closet, scratch walls or leave fur stuck in the living room carpet. Canine Journal says that pets can be a liability if they bite other tenants. Therefore, your landlord may decide to charge a pet deposit as well as add a pet rent to the base rental rate. It is also possible that you’ll be charged for cleaning when the lease expires, and this cost will likely be deducted from your security deposit.

Criminal History

The last thing that a landlord wants to deal with is illegal activity on his or her property. Therefore, it may be difficult to get an apartment if you have a criminal record show up on a background check. Chicago Trusted Attorneys points out that even misdemeanors will appear on your criminal record and can affect whether a property owner rents to you. 

Type of Lease Desired

In most cases, a rental agreement lasts for 6 to 24 months. However, it is possible to negotiate rental periods that are longer than 24 months or shorter than 6 months. Generally speaking, you will pay more for a shorter lease as it increases the possibility that a unit will become vacant earlier than expected. 

Furthermore, it may be necessary to have an apartment cleaned more often if tenants are moving in and out every few months. You also have to consider that the property owner could have to pay more to advertise a vacant unit if tenants move out multiple times per year. Moving.com suggests tenants should be given a move-in and move-out checklist, which protects the landlord and the tenant. 

If you aren’t ready to buy a home, renting an apartment can be a great way to acquire housing that meets your needs and budget. It is a good idea to carefully review a lease to ensure that you fully understand its terms and conditions before you decide to sign it. Your landlord should be able to answer any questions that you have about the contract.

If you found this article helpful, check out “How Often Should You Schedule Rental Property Inspections”.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.