hand resting on a dictionary page

Common Housing Terms

Housing 101: What does that mean?

You're going to hear many different terms to refer to the necessary steps in obtaining a rental apartment of a house in Davis. Below are some of the most commonly used terms that you should be familiar with before looking for a place to live.

  • Lease or Rental Agreement: A contract between you and your landlord in which you agree to pay a specific amount of rent for a certain number of months. If you move out before the ending date of the agreement, your landlord will require you to continue paying rent for the months remaining in the lease or until another tenant moves in.  It is very important to understand the terms of this agreement before signing a lease.
  • Sublet Apartment or “Sublease”: A sublet apartment (or room) means that a person is leaving an apartment, or a room in an apartment or townhouse, before the end of their rental agreement, either temporarily or permanently.  In either case, they have a contract with the landlord that has not expired.  When you “sublease,” you will either be liable for the contract temporarily, or you may be liable for the rest of the contract if the person from whom you sublease does not intend to return before the contract expires.  It is important to be able to review the contract and/or have the expectations, privileges, and limitations of the sublease in writing before agreeing to sublet a room or apartment.  In many cases, “summer sublets” are common and convenient.  However, during the rest of the year, a sublease may mean that you have agreed to take all the responsibilities of the contract that was previously signed.  It is important to understand the agreement before confirming you will sublease.  If the sublease is for a room in an apartment or townhouse, it is also important to understand all the issues, such as whether there are other roommates; whether laundry and kitchen facilities are available; whether you are expected to pay a portion of the gas, electric and wi-fi, etc.
  • Security Deposit: Money that you must pay before you move into the housing. If you damage anything in the rental property, this money will be used to repair the damage to the property. This deposit is sometimes refundable if you have not damaged the property.
  • Property Management Company: A company that is paid to manage a rental property for the property's owner. The company finds renters and makes sure the renters follow the lease. The company may also provide basic maintenance service.
  • Apartment Manager: The person in charge of your apartment building. Managers are paid to take care of problems and financial issues (collecting rent, deposits, etc.).  They sometimes also rent out apartments in an apartment complex.
  • Landlord: The property owner who rents houses or apartments to tenants.
  • Tenant: The person who rents a house or an apartment.
  • Utilities: Services such as water, gas, electricity, and garbage pick-up. These services may be included in the rent -- usually, they are not included. Your lease will define if utilities are included.  If not, it’s important to ask what the likely additional amount you will need to pay each month will be.