Lease Terminology

Understanding the lease terminology before you sign a lease is important.



The agreed upon period of time in which the lease is in effect.  Before you sign the lease check that the start and end dates align with your academic calendar needs. You'll often see an 11.5 month lease term in  Ann Arbor, however, the rent for the term of the lease is generally divided into 12 equal installments.



  • Individual Lease: An individual rents their room and shares a common area with other tenants.  A tenant will only be responsible for their own rent, but may be responsible for a portion of damage to the common areas, regardless of fault. Popular in large communities.
  • Joint and Several Lease: All tenants are jointly liable to the landlord for the rent and other obligations pursuant to the lease and each tenant may be individually liable to the landlord for the full rent and other obligations under the lease.  



  • Guarantor or co-signer: A third party who is legally responsible for the financial obligations under the lease if the tenant fails to pay rent and/or other money owed to the landlord. If you do not have someone to serve in this role, consult with your landlord or Student Legal Services about possible alternatives.
  • Holding Deposit: A set amount of money to take the property off the market and reserve it for you. Before you pay this, check to see if the deposit is refundable if you decide not to rent that space.
  • Security Deposit: This is a deposit held by the landlord for the term of the lease. The security deposit can be used by the landlord for any damage to the apartment or any unpaid rent or utility bills.  See MCL 554.601 
  • Installments: Many companies will indicate that you will pay 12 equal monthly installments on the full lease amount. These are not rent payments for the month, instead they are installment payments. Remember, leases in the near-to-campus area are often around 11.5 months long, so your final installment may seem expensive.
  • Monthly payments: Payments made monthly are typically the same amount. If your lease begins or ends in the middle of the month, you may see that your rent rate is prorated for those months.



  • Sublease: A Sublease is a lease agreement between an original tenant and a subtenant which permits the subtenant to use and possess the unit for a period of time.  The original tenant is still responsible to the landlord for all terms of the lease. Please consult with Student Legal Services before entering into a sublease. 
  • Lease Assignment: In a lease assignment, or sometimes referred to as a relet or lease transfer, all the interests and rights of the original tenant are transferred to a new tenant. The original tenant has no further obligations pursuant to the lease after the lease is transferred. This is facilitated by the property management company and the tenants involved.



  • Don't rush. A lease is a legally binding contract. Your signature binds you to its terms.
  • Get all promises from the landlord signed and in writing.
  • Before you sign your lease, have it reviewed for free by Student Legal Services.