Buzz Words and Abbreviations

Here's a list of common buzzwords used in a housing search: 

Amenities—These include features of a building. Common examples include a fitness center, business center, balconies, laundry room, swimming pool, childcare center, playground, and community room.

Cooperative (also referred to co-op housing)—A building owned by a cooperative apartment corporation. The corporation issues shares of its stock which are allocated to each apartment depending on the size and features. This means you don't own the actual space but rather a share in the corporation.

Co-signer—A person that agrees (in writing) to pay your lease and associated expenses if you default (are unable to pay) on your lease. The guarantor will be responsible for the full amount remaining to be paid on the contract if you default. A guarantor may be required when applying for a lease if you are not able to demonstrate a history of good credit or an income capable of paying the rent. Keep in mind that your guarantor will need to demonstrate the good credit history and income that you might be unable to demonstrate.

Credit—A dollar amount borrowed by you from a lender (a store, credit card company, landlord, etc) and paid back at a set rate of pay at a set time (i.e., monthly, bi-monthly) until the debt is repaid in full.

Credit Check—A credit check entails seeking a detailed analysis from a credit reporting bureau or agency. The report usually contains things like date of birth, social security number, current, and in some cases previous address, employment history, current employer and income, and payment history for loans and other debts.

Credit Report—Statement created by financial companies that document whether you paid your bills on time. This report is important because it is what your landlord will look at to determine whether you're trustworthy enough to rent to.

Deposit—Also known as a security deposit, is a fixed sum of money given to the landlord by the prospect at the start of tenancy to cover reasonable losses that may occur during the time that the tenant is occupying said space. If the space is left in the same condition as it was entered into, the landlord is obligated to return the full amount of the security deposit. If the tenant has afflicted damages beyond what is deemed reasonable or breaks the lease agreement that he or she signed with the landlord then the landlord keeps the deposit amount.

Eat-in kitchen—A kitchen large enough to contain seating for meals.

Eviction—The formal removal of a resident when they have broken the terms of their apartment rental agreement. In most cases, this requires formal notice beforehand.

Full Bath—A bathroom that includes a toilet and sink plus a shower and/or bath. The presence of the shower and/or bath makes this bathroom distinct from a half bathroom.

Furnished Apartment—means that you'll have the basics covered. You'll have your sofa, your kitchen table and chairs, your bed, a dresser and probably your basic household items. These units are perfect for people who need temporary housing (for a short-term business assignment, for example). More often these days, you'll see corporate housing companies offering their services in major metropolitan markets; corporate housing is probably your best bet in these circumstances, because you can be fairly certain that all of your needs will be met.

Half-Bath—an apartment with an extra bathroom that has no shower.

High-Rise Apartment—Multi-level residential building (Usually five or more levels).

Kitchenette—An area in an apartment that includes core items normally found in a kitchen, such as a refrigerator, freezer, stovetop, microwave, and some shelves and drawers.

Lease (leasing Agreement)—A rental contract between a landlord and tenant, by which an owner/landlord conveys the "right of possession" (i.e., to live in and use a property) temporarily to a tenant, for a set sum of money—usually, but not always, per month.

Loft apartments—A large, open-space apartment with high ceilings and large windows, often the result of a conversion of a former industrial building.

Move-in Specials—Apartment communities offering lease incentives such as "1 month free upfront or prorated," "no application fee," etc.

Parties to a Lease—Those who agree to abide by the provisions of a lease; typically you as a tenant, any roommates, and the apartment complex owner.

Pro-Rated Rent—The most common scenario for paying pro-rated rent is if you don't begin occupying the apartment at the first of the month. In that case, your landlord may agree to charge you only a part of the month's rent. If you move in October 15 instead of October 1, for example, you can be charged 16 days' rent (October 15 to 31) instead of 31. Beginning November 1, you would then be charged the normal monthly rate.

Renter's Insurance—If your possessions are stolen during a break-in or damaged by a fire or severe weather, a renter's insurance policy will allow you to recover their value. If someone is injured during an accident in your home, renter's insurance will help protect you in the case of a liability lawsuit.

Security Deposit—An advanced fee or deposit. This is to cover any damages to the apartment found by the landlord when you leave. The security deposit should be returned to you when you leave the apartment. Here's a note about deposits from the Chicago Tenants Union: "In Chicago and Evanston, the security deposit which the landlord is holding is actually the property of the tenant. Within 30 days of moving out, the landlord should notify you, in writing, whether he or she is going to make any deductions from your security deposit for repairs for damages you caused. If the landlord does not notify you of damages, then the landlord is obligated to return the security deposit within 45 days of your moving out. If the landlord notifies you of the estimated cost of repairs, he or she has an additional 30 days to furnish you with paid receipts. In Evanston, the landlord has 21 days to make deductions and must return the security deposit within 21 days."

Short-term Lease—A rental agreement less than one year. Apartments typically rent for one year; anything less is referred to as a short-term lease. Because of the added expense to find and prepare the unit for another renter, short-term lease rates are typically more expensive than one-year rates.

Sublease—A lease between a current tenant (called a sublessor or subtenant) and another person (called a sublessee) who occupies the apartment either along with the tenant or alone and pays rent to the tenant. Many landlords ban subleases altogether or require specific approval of each one.

Sublessee—A person who rents an apartment from a tenant under a sublease.

Sublet—Agreeing to permit someone to use a rental property for a term less than the full term of the apartment lease and to be paid for that permission.

Studio—An apartment where the bedroom is also the living room and the kitchen.

Tenement—Building with many apartments, most of which open out onto an airshaft.

Utilities—Apartment utilities often refer to heat, electricity, water, and Internet.

Walk-up Apartments—Four to five story apartment buildings with no elevator and usually no doorman. They were originally constructed as multifamily housing and lack the charm and elegance of traditional brownstones or townhouses.