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Lease vs Rent: What’s the Difference?


April 5, 2022

Written by:

Abhi Sreerama

Looking at new places is stressful enough, and if you’re walking into it still wondering what is the difference in leasing and renting, you may find yourself lost in the process.

With many new home and apartment situations, landlords and property managers may assume you already know the answer to “is a lease and rent the same?”, but let’s face it - we can’t know it all! Whether you’re newly exploring a rental contract in the popular Houston area, or have signed various leases and house rental agreement documents without fully understanding the difference, our team at Keyrenter Houston is here to help with all your real estate questions. 

So, is a lease the same as rent? You’re about to find out.

A calendar with rent due reminder

What Is a Lease Agreement?

Before officially moving into your new place, landlords will require that you sign a lease contract before handing over the keys. This contract is between tenants and landlords and provides a tenant with the right to live in the property for a specified amount of time. This can vary based on your residential lease agreement, but typically, leases offer a stay between 6 and 12 months, and sometimes more. 

With this clear contract, a lease contract defines exactly the terms and expectations of a tenant's stay so they have a common understanding with the landlord - and this goes beyond just rent. Residential lease agreement documents will also outline the amount of time permitted to stay, rules around pets, and other considerations relevant to the place. A thorough contract is essential to protecting both tenants and landlords, making the guidelines clear and legal.

What Is a Rental Agreement?

Rental Agreement

So, unlike a lease, what is a residential rental agreement?

Dissimilar from a lease, a rental contract typically includes a shorter amount of time, usually around 30 days. This is much shorter than a 6 or 12-month lease and is ideal for those looking for a more temporary stay, or the freedom of a month-to-month agreement. 

In many cases, a house rental agreement will automatically renew at the end of a term, unless otherwise specified. With this situation, both the landlord and tenant are free to change the terms at the end of each monthly cycle.

Lease vs Rent: What Is the Difference?

Let’s get into it - what is the difference between lease and rent?

When it comes to the difference between lease and rent, they’re relatively similar and are often used interchangeably. However, when considering lease vs rent, there is a key difference. A lease is a contract that conveys possession for a fixed period of time, while rent is possession in exchange for money. It’s also worth noting that for residential properties, a leasing or rental contract is effectively the same thing, but that is not the case for commercial properties, which can be a bit more complicated. 

No matter the agreement you have, the expectation is the same - both the tenant and landlord will abide by the terms. This means that for whatever duration was specified in the agreement, the price associated will be guaranteed. There can be no eviction without a cause, and no termination of an agreement on a whim. 

That being said, when looking more at what’s the difference between lease and rent agreements, ultimately, a rental contract may be easier to get out of. With a lease, a tenant that wants to break early will have to get permission from their landlord and either have to find a subletter to take over the space or give up their security deposit. 

So, to answer the question of “is lease the same as rent,” the simple answer is kind of. While you may use the terms interchangeably, there are small differences and specific agreements that best suit different people, and ultimately come down to your willingness to commit to staying in one place. 

Pros and Cons of a Lease Contract

We know the basics of the difference between renting and leasing a home, but now let’s get into the nitty-gritty: the pros and cons. To start, we are covering the benefits and downsides of going with a lease agreement. 

Pros of a Lease Agreement

Wondering why to choose a residential lease agreement? There are several pros, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top few.

  • Stable Space: in the lease vs rent house agreement debate, the lease is the clear winner when it comes to stability. With a lease, you are permitted to stay in your home for around a year, sometimes longer. This is wonderful for those that know they want to stay in one location. 
  • Consistent Rent: When signing a lease, you have the landlord committing to maintaining the same rent price for the full duration of the contract. This way, there are no surprises during that year, and your rent will remain the same for the duration of the agreement. 
  • Renewal with Rent Control: In areas that permit rent control, you can renew your lease for the same rate once your term is up. This is incredible for popular areas where rent prices tend to fluctuate, making sure your rent remains within your means. 

Cons of a Lease Agreement

Cons of a Lease Agreement

While leases are great, there are a few aspects to keep in mind. When it comes to the cons of lease agreements, here’s what you need to know. 

  • Lack of Flexibility: Since a lease locks you into an agreement for around a year, you pretty much have to stay in that place for the full duration of time. Additionally, if rents in the area drop, your rent will remain the same until the end of your contract.
  • Difficult to Move: With many leases lasting 12 months, a sudden life change that requires a move can be more of a pain. If allowed, you may be able to find a sublet, however, sometimes you will instead be met with hefty costs to break a lease.
  • Cons of Breaking a Lease: Say you need to get out of your lease ASAP, what will happen? It depends on the landlord, but this can lead to a loss of the security deposit, or be contractually obligated to still pay out the remainder of your lease, which can break the bank. Be sure to check the terms of your agreement to see what your lease terms specify when it comes to breaking the lease. 

Pros and Cons of a Rental Agreement

Similar to leases, a house rental agreement has both great perks and a few downsides that may impact your decision. To help you find the right choice, here are the pros and cons of rental contract agreements. 

Pros of Rental Contracts

For the spontaneous and free-spirited, rental contracts are likely the way to go. Here’s why.

  • Short-term freedom: With a monthly, 30-day rental agreement, you are permitted to stay in a space for a much shorter amount of time, allowing you to try new places and avoid commitment. This is great for those who are unsure where they want to land or are doing an internship or other short stints in a location. 
  • Convenient for life changes: Since a rental contract doesn’t bind you to a location long-term, when big or unexpected life changes happen, you can more freely leave your spot to go where you’re needed in a cinch. 
  • Renegotiations: Unlike lease agreements that will remain the same no matter how the market changes, rental agreements allow you to renegotiate at the end of each month-to-month contract. This can allow you to get a better deal, or negotiate new terms, like allowing pets. 

Cons of Rental Contracts

Every great thing comes with a few flaws. Despite the flexibility, there are a few downsides to opting for rental agreements. These considerations include:

  • Lack of stability: With a month-to-month agreement, your home is not secure after the end of those 30 days. This means, if a landlord changes their mind, you may have to find a new place whether you want to leave or not. While it can feel free to be able to pick up and go, with a rent agreement, this may not always be up to you. 
  • Rent hikes: With a contract that’s subject to change every 30 days, it’s likely that you will face an increase in rent at one point or another when you choose to renew your contract. This can be due to increases in the neighborhood, or new additions to the apartment, and this may affect your ability to afford to stay. 

See How We Can Help You

Still have questions about leasing and/or renting? Connect with one of our Keyrenter real estate experts to get much more information!

See How We Can Help You


So, what’s the difference between renting and leasing? Hopefully, now you can confidently answer that question and approach your next contract with the increased knowledge base to get the best deal. While the difference between renting and leasing a home may feel small, it can have a big impact on your quality of life and finances, so be sure to take the time to find the right option for you.

Whether you’re still wondering, “what’s the difference between renting and leasing?” or are ready to sign your first contract, our team at Keyrenter Houston is here to help with all your leasing needs in the Houston area. To commit to your next place today, contact us online for our leasing services and guidance on your new home. 


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