Signing a Lease

Understand your lease before you sign

Indiana law assumes that you’ve thoroughly read your lease before you signed it.

The most important thing to know about your lease is that it’s a legally binding contract. Once you sign it, you are bound to it with very few exceptions.

Bloomington leases are almost always for a full year. Graduating, leaving school, or getting a job in another state won’t get you out of your lease.

Get a free lease analysis

Schedule an appointment with Student Legal Services so we can analyze and explain the terms of your lease before you sign. This service is free to IU Bloomington students and can save you time, money, and frustration.

Common clauses

An automatic renewal clause allows the lease to be automatically renewed if the existing agreement isn’t renegotiated before a specified time. The term of renewal depends on the specific language of the lease, but such clauses generally state that the contract will be automatically renewed for the same term as the original lease unless the tenant gives notice to the landlord before a specified date.

Be sure to read your lease thoroughly and take caution to follow the rules on how to terminate the lease, or ask the landlord to remove that provision before you sign.

A landlord may ask you to complete an application to allow a check to be done on your credit history.

Here is where international students may run into an obstacle. The credit check is conducted using a social security number, which international students typically do not have. In those cases, the landlord may require additional things from you, such as a guarantor, several months of rent in advance, and extra security deposits.

A guarantor is someone with a social security number and good credit history who will co-sign the lease with you. By co-signing the lease, the guarantor agrees to pay your rent if you fail to do so. Both you and the guarantor will be liable for the lease. If neither you nor the guarantor pays the obligations of the lease, the landlord can sue both of you.

If you have bad credit or insufficient credit history, the landlord may require you to pay several months of rent in advance. For example, if the lease term starts in August, the landlord may require you to prepay rent through January.

Your lease will probably include a variety of provisions explaining how you might violate (or “default on”) the lease, including having unauthorized pets in the rental unit, extended guest visits, failure to pay rent when due, and criminal activity.

Never assume parking is provided.

Some leases don’t talk about parking, sometimes you have to get a sticker from the landlord, and sometimes you have to pay an extra parking fee.

To park on the street within a designated Neighborhood Parking Zone, you are required to have a parking permit, which you can get from Bloomington City Hall for $25. You’ll have to provide proof that you live in the zone.

Most landlords require a security deposit before a tenant moves in. Indiana law allows the landlord to use deposits to cover:

  • Unpaid rent or other charges
  • Repairing damage to the rental unit you or your guests cause, beyond ordinary wear and tear
  • Cleaning the rental unit after you move out

Indiana law is generally not tenant friendly. However, the law does give the landlord a deadline for returning any of the deposit that was not used. Landlords must also provide an accounting of any amounts deducted from the security deposit.

When you sublet, you rent your room or your entire house or apartment out to another person for a predetermined amount of time during your lease term.

It is important to remember that if you sublet your rental unit, you remain liable under your lease. Choose your subtenants wisely, since you are still liable for rent if the subtenant doesn’t pay, and you may have to pay for the damage they do.

Most leases require the landlord’s permission to sublease, and you will probably have to pay a fee. We will help you better understand the legal obligations associated with this process and can also prepare a sublease agreement for you.

Most leases do not include utilities (gas, electricity, water, cable, internet) as part of rent. Tenants must contact the utility companies to sign up for these services in the tenant’s name. If the lease doesn’t say, it usually means you pay. Find out up front if any of your utilities are included in the cost of rent. And don’t forget to cancel the utilities at the end of your lease.

Cable and internet

There are several internet and cable providers in Bloomington:

  • Comcast
  • AT&T Uverse
  • Smithville Communications
  • DirecTV
Gas and electric

Vectren and Duke are the two major companies in Indiana that offer gas and electric services. To start service, both companies must be able to verify your identity, which generally requires providing a social security number or tax identification number. If you don’t have either one of these, you will have to complete an Identity Verification Form.

Be aware that requesting and submitting an application may take a few days. Additionally, new customers may be required to make a deposit. Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for gas and electric services.


The City of Bloomington is responsible for managing the treatment and distribution of water.

Check the rental history

Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) Office maintains a file on every rental unit within the City of Bloomington. Before you sign a lease, consider visiting the HAND office and reviewing the file for your unit. You can read about previous complaints, maintenance problems, and other red flags before you sign your lease.