Review a Sample Lease Agreement

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Before you sign your lease, it’s good to review the key terms found in a sample lease agreement.  A lease is a mutual agreement between a landlord and tenant that lays out the expectations for living in the apartment. It includes everything from how much you’ll pay for rent to your promise not to be a noise nuisance to your neighbors. Here’s a review of terms you might see in one:

1. Term

This section of the lease states how long you plan to rent your apartment. Typical terms are month-to-month (in that case you’re signing a rental agreement and not a lease) or 1 year. A landlord will want to lock you in as long as possible because it guarantees him a monthly income. Your goal is to negotiate a lower term with an option to renew it or convert to a month-to-month term (so that you can get out if you need to).

2. Occupancy

Your landlord doesn’t want any surprises as to who is living in the apartment. They’ll put a limit on occupancy clause in the lease agreement stating exactly who can live there. If you plan on having a roommate, you should state that upfront so that you’re legally covered in the lease. If someone other than you will occupy the apartment, then negotiate a broader occupancy clause in the lease agreement.

3. Deposits

You and your landlord need to agree on exactly how your security deposit is going to be used, and how it cannot be used. For example, many tenants make the mistake of not paying the last month’s rent when their lease is up. They assume that the landlord can just apply the security deposit to the rent. They end up owing a full month’s worth of rent to the landlord, who may take them to court. You should also spell out what if any portion of it is non-returnable. If you have a pet, you may have to pay another deposit, and the terms of returning that should be included.

4. Rent

This section contains more than just the amount of money you’ll pay. It also will state how you’ll pay, by what date, where you’ll pay and how much (if any) you’ll owe if you don’t pay your rent on time. Most lease agreements state that rent is due the first of the month, but some will allow payment within the first 5 days of the beginning of the month.

5. Maintenance Repairs

Everything usually looks nice and clean when you first see an apartment. However, down the road (hopefully not right away) appliances may not work or the tenant above you might leak water into your apartment. Any rental unit will need to be repaired every once in awhile. This section sets the terms for handling repairs. You’ll be responsible for reporting the need for repairs to the landlord, and they will be responsible for making reasonable and timely repairs. It may restrict you from making the repairs yourself, or from installing things that require unexpected repairs to the apartment (such as a dishwasher).

Knowing and planning how to negotiate these terms are important. Decide what you will or won’t agree to regarding the term, occupancy, rent and maintenance repairs, and don’t sign anything that you’re not comfortable with.

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