Chances are you are currently renting a room, a house, or an apartment since over 43 million households are in some form of rental situation.
But are you truly renting your home, or are you leasing it?
If you are confused by the difference between a lease vs. a rental agreement, we’re here to help.
Lease vs. Rent: Understanding the Differences
The critical difference between lease and rent is their duration.
Whereas a leasing remains valid for the period specified in a formal agreement (typically one year), a rental agreement could cover a short-term period for month-to-month stays or vacation rentals.
For example, you and your long-term partner may sign a lease agreement that lasts one year.
However, you may want to opt for a month-to-month rental agreement when moving in with your partner for the first time because it is more flexible (in the event things don’t work out).
What Does Rent Mean?
Renting refers to the short-term arrangement of one party living in, or using, a piece of property owned by another party.
Rent refers to a regular payment made to a landlord by a tenant leasing property like a house or apartment.
When renting, the landlord has the right to change the terms of the rental agreement as they see fit. Additionally, a standard rental agreement is valid on a month-to-month basis.
What Does Lease Mean?
A lease is a contract outlining an agreement between a lessor and lessee that dictates a rental period of time and other housing-related stipulations.
As a rule of thumb, a real estate lease agreement covers an extended period known as the “term” and typically lasts one year.
It does not automatically extend past the end of the term, so parties to the contract will need to create a lease renewal for the continued rental of the property.
Landlords should know the difference between a lease renewal and lease extension before sending this binding contract to a tenant.
Some of these agreements include a clause allowing the tenant to continue a month-to-month tenancy after the agreement ends.
These contracts can cover all sorts of property, such as:
- Commercial Real Estate
- Tools or Equipment
These agreements are binding legal documents. Parties to the contract cannot modify terms without an amendment form.
The tenant and property owner must honor the original agreement minus any amendment.
For modifications, amending a lease agreement with a legally binding form is the best way to protect all parties — although both the lessor and lessee must agree upon the amendments for the changes to be valid.
What Does it Mean to Lease a House?
Leasing a house offers tenants the sense of security of living in a home and the flexibility of not having to purchase a property.
As with any lease, the terms of the document determine how long you can rent the property, the agreed-upon monthly rent, and other miscellaneous conditions such as required house or yard maintenance.
Unlike an apartment, landlords leasing a house may also include an “option to buy” or “rent-to-own” clause in the agreement.
Under a lease option to buy (and depending on the exact terms of the contract), rental payments are an investment toward a down payment on the property.
Rent-to-own agreements are attractive for many individuals or families with trouble securing a mortgage loan.
How do Apartment Leases Work?
When deciding between leasing an apartment vs. renting, you must consider how long you’re willing to rent the unit.
Are you okay with living in that apartment building for at least a year?
If you aren’t and would rather have something more flexible, perhaps signing a month-to-month rental agreement or subletting the property to another tenant with a sublease agreement is better for you.
However, make sure you aren’t asking the question, “What is subletting?” before you sign anything.
For instance, a college student who plans to leave town each summer may not be able to fulfill a long-term agreement and the alternative leasing options mentioned above would be ideal in their situation.
If you decide to rent an apartment, an apartment lease operates the same way as renting a house — albeit without the option to purchase the apartment unit or building.
If you’re planning on renting an apartment, you’ll almost certainly be required to sign a formal contract for leasing (likely for at least one year).