Housing and Leasing Vocabulary

  • Amenities: The features and services offered by an apartment or building. This may include things like on-site laundry facilities, parking, fitness center, bike room, extra storage, childcare center, playground, and community room.
  • Co-signer (or Guarantor): A co-signer is someone who assumes responsibility for a lease with a tenant who otherwise would not meet the landlord’s financial qualifications. If you have no rental history or bad credit, you may be required to have a co-signer or guarantor. This is different than having roommates who also sign the lease on their own behalf.
  • Condo or condominium: An apartment that is owned by an individual in a building, with the common areas of the complex shared among all condo owners. Many condo owners rent out their units, either through a management company or listing site, or through classified ads.
  • Credit Check: Landlords will review a potential tenant’s credit history through one of several credit rating agencies before approving a rental application. This provides the landlord with an understanding of your financial history. You need to give written consent which permits the landlord to check your credit, but almost all applications will require this.
  • Credit Report: This is the report prepared by the credit rating agencies. It will describe your personal credit history – whether you have made bill and debt repayments on time, have delinquent accounts, or have been sued. This report gives the landlord information about a potential tenant’s trustworthiness.
  • Eviction: A legal process to remove a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant has violated the rental agreement by damaging the property, failing to pay rent, etc.
  • Fixture Fee/Fix Fee: A fee paid by the tenant for appliances already in a unit.
  • Full Bath: A bathroom which includes a toilet, sink, and bathtub or shower. A “Half Bathroom,” on the other hand, has a toilet and sink but no shower.
  • Furnished Apartment: An apartment that comes with basic furniture such as a bed, sofa, kitchen table and chairs, etc.
  • Garden Apartment: In the Chicago area, the term “garden apartment” or “garden unit” usually refers to a unit at or below ground level. These apartments usually have windows higher up in the walls than other apartments, since part of the wall is underground. They often have different layout or features than other units in the same building, and are typically priced lower than comparable units on higher floors.
  • Landlord: The person or company who offers a property they own or manage for rent. This may be the owner of the building, a property manager hired by the owner to rent his/her apartment, or an individual renting out their home or condominium.
  • Lease (Leasing Agreement): A written legal contract between a landlord and a tenant stating the dates, cost, rules, and other terms of the rental agreement for a predetermined length of time. A lease must be in writing to be valid.
  • Lessee: A tenant under a lease (i.e., you as the renter).
  • Lessor: One who grants a lease (the landlord).
  • Loft apartments: An open-plan apartment, often with large windows and high ceilings, often created from an old industrial property, such as a factory or warehouse.
  • Rental period: Can refer either to the length of time between rent payments (usually one month), or to the length of the lease.
  • Renter's Insurance: Insurance protecting the tenant in case of damage or loss due to fire, flood, or theft. Agreements usually include clauses covering injury to a guest or visitor. Some leases will require you to secure renter’s insurance. The landlord’s insurance will not cover your belongings.
  • Security Deposit: A deposit, often equal to one month’s rent, is sometimes required at the start of the rental agreement against any damages/losses that might occur while you live in the unit. This amount should be returned to you at the end of your lease agreement if all the terms of the lease have been met.
  • Square Feet: All measurements will be given in feet and inches (indicated with ‘ and “), with total size indicated with square feet (SF or another abbreviation may be used). 600 SF is about 56 square meters; 900 SF is about 84 square meters.
  • Sublease or Sublet: A lease by a tenant to a third party (sublessee or sublettor), usually renting all or part of the rental property for a shorter term than the tenant’s term while still maintaining full responsibility to the landlord. This may occur if, for example, you rent out your apartment to someone else for the summer.
  • Studio: An apartment which is composed of a single room and a bathroom. The main room functions as the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Usually appropriate only for one person.
  • Tenant: A person who rents or leases a rental unit from a landlord. (Also known as a lessee.)
  • Termination: The ending of a rental agreement by either party.
  • Utilities: Utilities include basic services like electricity, natural gas, heat, and water. You may also want other services, such as internet, cable television, or telephone. Ask your landlord which you will need to sign up for. Depending upon your building, the heat may be included, or may be powered by gas or electricity, and the same is true for your appliances and other items.
  • Warranty of Habitability: The warranty of habitability implies that the tenants have the right to live in a safe, healthy and clean apartment, which does not have a negative impact on their welfare.

Common Abbreviations

Here are some of the most common abbreviations that you will come across during your apartment search.

  • A/C: Air Conditioning
  • APT: Apartment
  • BA: Bathroom
  • BD or BR: Bedroom
  • BSMT: Basement
  • CAC: Central Air Conditioning
  • CBL: Cable
  • CPT: Carpet
  • DR: Dining Room
  • ELV: Elevator
  • D/W: Dishwasher
  • HDWD: Hardwood
  • HW: Hot water
  • LR: Living Room
  • MBR: Master Bedroom
  • MO: Month
  • MWV: Microwave
  • PRV: Private
  • RDR: Radiator
  • REF: Refrigerator
  • SQ FT: Square Feet
  • W/D: Washer and Dryer
  • WTR: Water
  • YD: Yard