You’ve finally found the apartment of your dreams and now it’s time to sign your lease. For first time renters, there are usually two types of people: Those that are so excited, they initial every page and potentially sell their soul on the bottom line. Then, there’s the individuals who read over every clause and paragraph, really don’t know what their agreeing to, but sign anyway.
But before you sign your lease, there are questions you need to ask before picking up that pen. Understanding the terms of your lease is important. It’s a binding contract and you can find yourself in an unnecessary amount of problems if you’re not careful. Home should feel like a place of refuge, but for some renters, not understanding their obligations as tenants can turn your living space into a battle ground.
Know what you’re getting yourself into. Asking the right questions will protect you from future liabilities. Below is a list of questions to think about before signing your lease. If these questions can’t be answered without the person breaking into a nervous sweat, know that you might be putting yourself at risk. Hopefully a lot of these questions have been answered before you get this point, but it’s good to verify that everything you were told as they dazzled you with all their property amenities and incentives still stand.
Rent, security deposits and other costs:
- How much is the rent? (Verify that what was originally offered still stands)
- Is rent stabilized? Are you signing on a lease special and for how long?
- How do you pay your rent? (Some apartments only allow certain payments methods and may charge depending on how you chose to pay)
- What do you owe before move in?
- Is rent prorated if you don’t move in on the first of the month?
- How much is the security deposit and when must it be paid?
- What must you do to have my security deposit returned in full and when will it be returned?
Amenities and repairs:
- What appliances are provided? (Don’t just assume you’re getting a fridge and microwave or you may find yourself in a pickle—food humor)
- Is there a walk-through process during move in? A landlord will find any reason to seize your deposit. Make sure you can officially document in writing anything that needs repairs to protect you upon move out)
- What repairs, in any are free?
- Can you paint?
- Is the apartment furnished?
- Are any utilities included? (Some apartments offer free utilities as an incentive so know what you’re paying for)
- Is there central heating and cooling? (Depending on where you chose to live, this may not be a luxury offered. Find out what the alternative is)
- Is there free, onsite parking and if so, is it assigned? How many spots are you allotted per apartment and do you need a pass? Is there street parking available? Are their garages for rent? Is towing a concern? (Who knew there were so many questions about parking?)
- Has the apartment recently been renovated?
- Are there onsite laundry facilities? If not, where is the closest laundromat?
- What’s the average utility costs?
- Are there additional storage units available?
- How does access and entry to the premises work? (Maybe you live in a gated community; what are the requirements for entry? Must you go through a secured entryway to get your apartment?)
- Is there a leasing office? What are the hours of operation?
- Are pets allowed and what fees apply?
- Is there onsite maintenance? When are they available and how do you contact them?
- How can you report repairs?
- Will the apartment be cleaned before you move in?
Emergencies, safety and security:
- Where are the fire exits located?
- What is the emergency procedure?
- Are there smoke detectors or fire extinguishers in your apartment?
- What types of locks are on the doors? Are they electronic or standard?
- How many sets of keys do you get?
- What’s the policy for lockouts and lost keys?
- What staff members have access to keys?
- Can you put a deadbolt on your door?
Lease terms and renewal:
- Who, if anyone has right of entry?
- If you are not renewing, how much notice is required and do you have to allow the landlord to show your apartment?
- What is the renewal process?
- What’s the length of your lease? (Most leases are a 12-month commitment but don’t just assume. The less time, the higher your monthly rent cost will probably be. You also need to know your move out date should you chose to leave after your lease is up. Is there the option to pay month to month or secure only 6 months in necessary)
- Who is the landlord or property manager and how can you contact them? (Maybe you’re only dealing with the leasing staff at this point. Knowing who the head honcho is good so that if a serious problem arises, you can go straight to the top)
- Is notice required to terminate or renew the lease, or will it automatically renew for another year? What fee, if any, is charged for early termination?
- Is subletting allowed? (Circumstances may change where you need to leave earlier than expected)
- Is renters insurance needed or provided?
Visitors and additional residents:
- Is there visitor parking?
- Is there a visitor’s curfew?
- How many people are allowed to occupy your residence?
- What gas stations, grocery and convenience stores in walking distance?
- How far is the nearest hospital?
- What accessible modes of public transportation are there?
These questions will undoubtedly lead you to leasing success. Find out when you can you move in, and once the lease is in your hands, be sure to read it thoroughly. If you understand everything and have no further questions, get your autograph ready and sign yourself into your new home!