Signing A Lease

IMPORTANT!!! A lease is a legally binding contract between you and the property owner, which states the conditions under which the residence is rented.

The lease must specify the amount of the security deposit and the conditions of its return, the rent you will pay, how many people can reside in the apartment, and for the amount of time, usually six months or one year.

Before you sign a lease or an agreement, please consider the following:

  • Make sure you understand the terms of the lease or agreement. Don't sign it if you do not understand it.
  • Once you sign the lease, you are bound to abide by its contents.
  • Ask to see the specific unit that you will be renting (not a model) and inspect it thoroughly before signing and/or moving-in.
  • Pay close attention to details of the residence both inside and outside.
  • If you or the landlord/leasing office agree to any additional changes and provisions in the lease, it must be in writing.
  • Never sign a lease that has blank spaces.
  • Once you have signed the lease be sure to get a copy of the lease agreement and keep it in a safe place.
  • If you change your mind about staying there, you may be held liable for that signed lease agreement.
  • Do not pay in cash unless absolutely necessary and, if you do pay in cash, make sure to get a receipt for the cash payment.
  • Do not pay a deposit or any rental payment until you have read, understood, and signed the lease and received the keys to the actual apartment that you have inspected.
  • If you do not understand something contained in the lease and the manager/landlord cannot satisfactorily explain it to you, you should consult with an attorney since this is a legal document.
  • Look for other costs of the lease such as penalty payments if you move out before the lease is up.
  • You might also have to pay extra if you do not give enough notice that you will move (generally one month). The details of these payments should be specified in the lease. Notification of moving may be required in writing rather than a phone call, for example.

LEGAL SERVICES — Free Walk-in Legal Clinic each Thursday from 4-6 p.m.

This is a first-come, first-served clinic that is open to anyone, so you should arrive as near to 4:00 p.m. as possible. The clinic is located at 307 Hickerson Dr., near the intersection of Church and Broad.

If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services at the Legal Aid Society, 526 N. Walnut St. (890-0905). They can help with housing problems, evictions, etc. They also can assist with divorces involving spouse or child abuse. They can help with getting health care and medicine, TennCare, Food Stamps, Families First, and other money issues.


If for some reason you find yourself with the need to break your lease, subleasing your residence may be an alternative to fulfilling your leasing obligations. Keep in mind that subleasing can be difficult and time-sensitive.

A sublease is an agreement in which you rent your residence to another person.

Make sure you have obtained the permission of the landlord or leasing office (in writing) before you make an attempt to sublease your residence. If you are permitted, you are still responsible for the residence, including rent and damages, unless you are totally "re-leased"; from the residence by the landlord or leasing office.


You may be " released"; from your leasing obligations by the landlord or leasing office. Being released is not a common practice. If you have been given permission to be released (in writing) from your lease obligations, you must find a person to rent your residence. Once you have obtained a person to rent your residence, you are no longer liable for the residence. A new lease is created between the new resident and the property owner.


You may be evicted or made to move out of the apartment if:

  • you do not respect the rights and privacy of other tenants.
  • rent is not paid.
  • you cause destruction or damage to and misuse the property.
  • you create unreasonable disturbances.

The landlord cannot change the locks or turn off the utilities or put your belongings out on the street. The landlord must make reasonable attempts to collect the rent and give you written notice to move out that specifies how many days you have to get out.

You have 14 days to fix the problem - pay the rent, pay for damages done to the apartment, etc. If you do not solve the problem with the landlord and you don't move by then, the landlord can take the case to court to get an eviction order. Then the Sheriff's Department may be called to put your belongings on the street if you do not move by the date specified by the court.

You should not ignore eviction notices. Try to work out rent payments or paying for damages, etc. to avoid eviction. If you cannot reach an agreement, seek legal advice. Do not take matters in your own hands. Consult the Legal Aid Society pamphlet on Renters Rights that outlines ways to handle possible eviction. Go to the Legal Aid Society website and click on Renter's Rights on the right column for more information.