Important Terms

A glossary of terms you'll need to know:


A neutral third person, agreed to by the parties in a dispute, who hears and decides the dispute. An arbitrator is not a judge, but the parties must follow the arbitrator's binding decision.


An agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant by which the new tenant takes over the lease or rental agreement of a unit and becomes responsible to the landlord for everything which the original tenant was responsible. (The original tenant is still responsible to the landlord if the new tenant does not meet the expectations of the lease or rental agreement.)

Credit Report:

Report prepared by a credit reporting service that describes the last seven years of a person's credit history. A credit report shows, for example, the amount(s) a person currently owes on their credit cards, whether the person pays their bills in a timely manner, has been sued and is subject to court judgments.


A court-administered proceeding for removing a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant violated the lease or rental agreement or did not comply with a notice ending the tenancy (also called an unlawful detained lawsuit). Landlords are required to give a three day notice to the tenant specifying the need to comply with the lease or rental agreement or risk being evicted.

Holding Deposit:

A deposit that the tenant gives to a landlord to hold a rental unit until the tenant pays the first month's rent and the security deposit.


A business or person who owns a rental unit, and who rents or leases the rental unit to another person, called a tenant.


A rental agreement, in writing, that establishes all terms of the agreement and that lasts for a predetermined length of time.


A person's carelessness and failure to use ordinary or reasonable care that result in injury to another person or damage to another person's property.

Rental Agreement:

An oral or written agreement between a tenant and a landlord, made before the tenant moves in, which establishes the terms of the tenancy such as the amount of the rent and when it is due.

Rental Application Form:

A form used by the landlord to ask a potential tenant information regarding contact information, employment history, credit references, etc.

Rental Period:

Length of time between rental payments.

Rental Unit:

An apartment, house, duplex, or condominium that a landlord rents to a tenant.

Renter's Insurance:

Insurance protecting the tenant against property losses, such as losses from theft or fire. This insurance may also protect the tenant against liability for claims or lawsuits filed by the landlord or by others alleging that the tenant negligently injured another person or property.

Security Deposit:

A deposit or a fee that the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of tenancy to protect the landlord, for example, if the tenant moves out owing rent, or leaves the unit damaged or less clean from when the tenant moved in.


Separate rental agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant whom the original tenant rents all or part of the unit. (The new tenant is called a subtenant.) The lease or rental agreement between the original tenant and landlord remains, and the original tenant continues to be responsible for paying rent and all other tenant obligations.


The tenant's exclusive right, created by a lease or rental agreement between the landlord and tenant, to use and possess the landlord's rental unit.


A person who rents or leases a rental unit from a landlord. The tenant obtains the right to the exclusive use and possession of the unit during the lease or rental period.