University of Northern Colorado
Signing the Lease

Signing a Lease or Rental Agreement

Before you can rent a unit, you and the landlord must enter into one of two kinds of agreements: a periodic rental agreement or a lease. The periodic rental agreement or lease creates the tenant's right to live in the rental unit. The tenant's right to use and possess the landlord's rental unit is called a tenancy.

A periodic rental agreement states the length of time (the number of days) between the rent payments - for example a week (seven days) or a month (30 days). The length of time between rent payments is called the rental period.

A periodic rental agreement that requires one rent payment each month is a "month-to-month" rental agreement, and the tenancy is a "month-to-month" tenancy. The month-to-month rental agreement is by far the most common kind of rental agreement, although longer (or shorter) rental periods can be specified.

If the periodic rental agreement requires that rent be paid once a week, it is a "week-to-week" rental agreement and the tenancy is a "week-to-week" tenancy.

In effect, a periodic rental agreement expires at the end of each period for which the tenant has paid rent, and is renewed by the next rent payment. A periodic rental agreement does not state the total number of weeks or months that the agreement will be in effect. The tenant can continue to live in the rental unit as long as the tenant continues to pay rent, and as long as the landlord does not ask the tenant to leave.

In a periodic rental agreement, the length of time between the rent payments (the rental period) determines three things:

  • How often the tenant must pay rent;
  • The amount of advance notice the tenant must give the landlord if the tenant decides to leave; and
  • The amount of advance notice the landlord must give the tenant if the landlord decides to change the terms of the rental agreement (other than the amount of rent).

A lease states the total number of months that the lease will be in effect - for example,
6 or 12 months. Most leases are in writing, although oral leases are legal. If the lease is for more than one year, it must be in writing.

It is important to understand that, even though the lease requires the rent to be paid monthly, you are bound by the lease until it expires (for example, at the end of 12 months). This means that you must pay the rent and perform all of your obligations under the lease during the entire lease period.

There are some advantages to having a lease. If you have a lease, the landlord cannot raise your rent while the lease is in effect, unless the lease expressly allows rent increases. Also, the landlord cannot evict you while the lease in in effect, except for reasons such as your damaging the property or failing to pay rent.

A lease gives the tenant the security of a long-term agreement at a known cost. Even if the lease allows rent increases, the lease should specify a limit on how much and how often the rent can be raised.

The disadvantage of a lease is that if you need to move, a lease may be difficult for you to break, especially if another tenant can't be found to take over your lease. If you move before the lease ends, the landlord may have a claim against you for the rent for the rest of the lease term.

Before signing a lease, you may want to talk with an attorney, legal aid organization, housing clinic, or tenant-landlord program to make sure that you understand all of the lease's provisions, your obligations, and any risks that you may face.


This website is not owned or operated by University of Northern Colorado. This site is managed by in affiliation with University of Northern Colorado.

University of Northern Colorado will not be liable for any special or consequential damages which may result from the use of, or the inability to use, the materials in this service. The University does not inspect, recommend, or guarantee off-campus housing advertised with this service. Complaints regarding unethical or inappropriate business practices or incidents of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, disabled veteran, Vietnam era veteran and medical condition by any landlord, property manager or property owner should be reported to the UNC Student Activities Office, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639, or call (970) 351-2871.