A lease is a legal agreement between you and your landlord that specifies what is expected, what is permitted and what is your responsibility while you are renting your apartment.
The purpose is to create a clear understanding between landlord and tenant at the start of the rental period, and avoid potential disputes down the road. Good idea. But a lease won’t work for you, unless you read it before you sign it.
What Your Lease Should List
If you sign without reading, you may be agreeing to terms you can’t uphold. Here are the standard items that should be included:
Start of lease
- Property location
- Who is renting it, from whom (generally the names on the lease are the responsible parties. If you have roommates, make sure they are included.)
- The length of the lease (most are one year)
- The amount of the rent (per month)
- When rent is due (generally the 1st or 15th of each month)
- What happens when rent is late (what is considered late? Are there penalties?)
- The security deposit amount to be paid, and the requirements for refund
End of lease
- Is there an automatic lease renewal at the end of your term?
- Do you keep the original lease terms?
- How much notice is required to break the lease? (30 days or 60 days written notice is typical)
- What are your options as a tenant if you must break the lease? (is there a penalty? Can you sublet your apartment?)
Every location and every landlord has details specific to their lease. Read them carefully!
- Who is responsible for repairs? Is it different for major or minor job? What is the procedure for requesting a repair? Is there a time limit?
- Are utilities included in the rent?
- Are pets allowed? Is there a type, breed, size or other limit? Is there a pet deposit?
- Can you make modifications to your property? (painting or other decorating?) Is there a penalty for unauthorized modification?
- Are there fees associated with any of the amenities in your community? (Fitness Center, Computer Center ETC…)
From state to state, complex to complex, owner to owner, leases can have their quirks. The best thing you can do is carefully read your lease, ask questions, and do not sign until you are certain you understand what is expected of you as a tenant. Once you do put pen to paper, your rental tenure will be much happier.