After what seems like endless searching, you have finally found the perfect rental. But don’t sign that lease too quickly! If you don’t take the time to read the fine print and ask the right questions, you could end up spending a lot of money than necessary. Here are the things you should ask and look for before you sign the dotted line.
Check Costs and What’s Included
You’d be surprised how often leases are written with the incorrect rental price. This can cause a major headache later when you try to fix it. Also, make sure that the lease specifically covers anything the landlord promised when showing you the place. For example, if the landlord agreed to pay for heating but it isn’t included in the lease, you won’t be able to do anything about it later if he/she refuses to pay!
Terms of the Security Deposit
Landlords are notorious for finding any reason not to give you your security deposit back. So, if this is important to you, be sure to read the terms carefully. Even minor damage or changes to the rental property could forfeit you the deposit! Note what alterations are allowed to the rental, like whether you are allowed to change the locks or hang pictures.
*It is good practice to take pictures of the rental before you move in as evidence of its original condition. Tell the landlord of any damages to the property so they can’t try to blame you.
What will happen if your heater breaks at 3am on a Friday night? Will you be forced to suffer the entire weekend without heat? A good landlord will offer 24/7 maintenance for emergencies. But be sure you know what qualifies as an emergency. Also pay close attention to what types of repairs and maintenance are covered and what you will have to pay for yourself. If the rental property has a yard, also note the maintenance policy for this too, like who does the landscaping.
When the Landlord Can Enter the Premises
Landlords occasionally have to enter your rental, such as for making emergency repairs. There should be a clear policy about when they can and can’t enter, and how much notice they need to give you in advance. Also pay attention to whether the landlord will be allowed to show the apartment to prospective new tenants while you still live there.
Those fees can really add up! See what fees apply and how much they are, such as for:
•Late payment fees
•Yard care fees
•Trash removal fees
•Overnight guest fees
Rent Increase and Lease Renewal Policy
All leases should have a clear policy about when and by how much the landlord can increase rent. Otherwise, you might find yourself suddenly facing the choice of much higher rent or having to move again. Also pay attention to by when you need to renew the lease. This is especially important in areas near colleges.