Signing a Lease

Final Questions Before Signing a Lease


  • When is the earliest I can move in?
  • How much is the security deposit? Is it refundable? What conditions must be met for me to receive a refund?
  • When is rent due?
  • What are my obligations if I have to break the lease?
  • Are the landlord/tenant responsibilities clearly outlined?
  • Do I need a parent or legal guardian to co-sign the lease?

Types of Leases

Individual Lease

Definition: One occupant signs for a bedroom and a share of the living area.

Pro: If a roommate moves out, you are not responsible for his/her rent or damages.

Con: The landlord can rent to anyone in the empty bedroom without your approval.

Group Lease

Definition: All occupants sign for the full rent and any damages as a group.

Pro: Your group has control of who may move into an empty bedroom.

Con: If a roommate backs out, the rest of the group must make up the difference in cost.

Knowing Your Lease

  • The terms and provisions of your lease legally bind you. By signing the lease you are legally stating that you know what it says and are willing to abide by all the rules in it. Carefully examine the lease before signing.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the landlord about clauses and terms that you don’t understand. Contact the Office of Residence Life and Housing (574-631-5878) for assistance.
  • Make sure everything is in writing and all parties involved sign, date and keep a copy.

The Security Deposit

  • Almost all leases require a security deposit. The deposit is held by the landlord for the length of the lease to guard against losses incurred due to damage not resulting from normal wear and tear or from a tenant moving out before the lease expires. The security deposit usually equals one month’s rent and is paid in advance or with the first month’s rent.
  • To help ensure that a fair amount of your security deposit is returned to you at the end of your lease, thoroughly fill out a damage checklist when you move in (this is sometimes referred to as a “walk-through”). It is a good idea to take pictures or a video.
  • Give a copy of the checklist to your landlord within five days of moving in and keep a copy for your records.
  • Check your lease or handbook for cleaning guidelines. Be sure to do a thorough job.
  • Before you move out, request in writing that your landlord complete a walk-through with you. Follow up with phone calls if needed. Be persistent.
  • Use your copy of the initial damage checklist and talk with the landlord as you go through to ensure you agree on what you will be charged for and how much.
  • Your security deposit should be returned within 45 days of the end of the lease if there have been no problems. The landlord is required to provide an itemized list of any deductions from the deposits. [Ind. Code. Ann. § 32-31-3-12 (2009)]


  • Some rental properties include utilities as part of the rental agreement. In these instances, the tenant will not be held responsible for contracting with the utility companies or paying for services through direct billings.
  • In cases where utilities are not included in the monthly rental payment, make sure you do some research to find out how much you should expect to pay, how to set up your account, etc. Check out the Budgeting and Utilities page for more information.