Renting an Apartment
Most landlords require tenants to sign a lease, a legally binding contract outlining the conditions that both the landlord and the tenant agree to meet. Leases are usually for one year, although it may be possible to arrange a lease for a shorter period of time. Before signing any lease, one should understand everything in it. Signing a lease commits a tenant to paying the amount of rent specified on the lease every month for the duration of the lease, whether one occupies the apartment or not.
Landlords may ask for the first and last month's rent when one signs a lease. Some will also require a security deposit (usually equal to one month's rent). The security deposit will be returned to the tenant when the lease ends, provided that there has been no damage to the property. For the tenant's protection, the landlord should document (in writing) any damage that existed before the tenant moves in the apartment. The landlord is required by law to put the security deposit in a special account (called an escrow account). Within 10 days of receipt of the deposit, the landlord must give the tenant in writing the name and address of the bank, and the account number where the tenant's security deposit has been placed.
NEVER WIRE MONEY OR PAY A DEPOSIT FOR A RENTAL WHICH YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IN PERSON.
It is important to find out whether or not the rental price of an apartment or house covers utilities and heat (oil, electricity or gas). Cold water usage for apartments is usually included in the rent. The prospective tenant should ask the landlord which type of heat is being used and which company to contact to arrange for service. One can get an estimate of the monthly utility bills by calling the respective companies. If utilities are paid separately, the tenant will be charged monthly for gas and electricity. If your heat is provided through oil, you will usually need to pay for the oil at the time of oil delivery.
Stoves and Refrigerators
Most apartments are furnished with either gas or electric cooking stoves. Please be certain that the pilot light of a gas stove, which automatically ignites the burners, is always burning. If the burners do not light when turned on or if there is an odor of gas, the pilot light should be checked immediately by the gas company. A refrigerator may or may not be included in an apartment. One can lease a refrigerator from Harvard Student Agencies or purchase a second-hand one from individuals or discount appliance stores.
Washing Machines and Dryers
Apartment buildings may have coin-operated washing machines and dryers in the building. Also, many neighborhoods have Laundromats with coin-operated washers and dryers. It is best to bring your own soap to the Laundromat because it is expensive to purchase soap there. Most Laundromats are open for 15 - 18 hours a day and have money-changing machines and counters or tables for folding clothes. Some Laundromats offer washing-and-folding services for a fee.