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Your lease

Before you sign your lease, have it reviewed for free by contacting Off-Campus Housing.

A lease is a binding contract granting use or occupation of property during a specified period in exchange for a specified rent.

The lease is your agreement with the landlord to rent the housing unit; it can be written or oral. An oral lease is just as binding as a written lease but its terms are more difficult to prove. If possible, get your lease in writing. 

Who signs the lease?

Carefully consider other tenants included in the lease. Any tenant who signs the lease may be jointly or solely responsible for the entire rent of the unit. Most landlords will allow you to sign separate leases for a single room within a unit, thus if other tenants miss their rental payments, you are not responsible for covering their missed payments. 

When you sign a lease, you are making yourself liable for rent each month until the lease ends, regardless of whether you live in the unit for the full lease period. If you plan to leave your housing unit for a period of time, you should sublet or convince the landlord to agree to a shorter lease term.

When leaving, you must give 60 days written notice to your landlord.  Subletting entails having someone else live in your unit for part of your lease term. You must ask permission from your landlord to sublet. Your landlord cannot reasonably refuse your sublet request; otherwise you can have your lease terminated.

Negotiating the lease

A contract is an agreement between two or more people to do something and a statement of their respective responsibilities and rights in doing it.  

Most landlords use lengthy written leases containing clauses designed to protect and benefit themselves, but if you are careful, respectful, assertive, and prepared, you can sometimes get a better deal for yourself.

VIDEO: leases and sublets

VIDEO: frequently asked questions


  • Take time to read the lease carefully before you sign it. If possible, take it home with you overnight and study it before agreeing.
  • Ask about any clauses you do not understand. Be sure you understand the explanation completely. If you wish, you can bring a copy of the lease to the Off-Campus Housing Office and ask for help in analysing the lease before you agree to it. Do not sign the lease until you are sure you understand it. You will not be excused from honouring the lease simply because you did not understand what the terms meant.
  • If you and the landlord agree to change or add to the lease, make sure both of you initial each change on the lease, or that your new agreement is written down and signed by both of you. Not only will the validity of any changes to the lease be in question if they are not put into writing and signed by both parties, but it may be very difficult to prove that those changes were ever made.
  • Remember that the key to successful negotiation is to make each person satisfied with the deal. Point out any advantages to the landlord in what you want. Be creative.  Look for ways to arrive at mutually beneficial solutions while establishing a friendly, cooperative relationship.
  • Once you have signed the lease, be sure to get a copy for yourself.