What Are Things Renters Should Do Before Signing a Lease?

So you’ve finally found a nice apartment or house, the next step is signing a lease!

But before you sign away, understand what you’re getting into because it’s a commitment you might not easily get out of. You will want to really look at the terms in the contract and be familiar with your rights as a tenant.

A good lease should protect both you and the landlord. Whether this is your first time renting or you’re an experienced tenant, below are helpful things to consider, and questions to ask, before signing the dotted line. You’ll be glad you read this article.

Renting an Apartment? Know these things before you sign the lease:

Image result for rent an apartmentPhoto: Fenway Realty
  • Agree on the details – and get them in writing. You’ll want to always read the fine print carefully because by you signing a lease, you are agreeing to what’s written on it. If there’s a part of the contract you’d like changed, make sure you get it in writing rather than relying on a verbal promise. Sometimes the lease isn’t detailed enough, which could spell trouble if expectations aren’t discussed and spelled out beforehand.
  • Understand all fees. You want to know what happens if you’re late with a rent payment.

“There’s usually a grace period of a few days,” says Daniel Tenenbaum, a Founding Principal with Pacific Crest Realty in Los Angeles and Chair of the California Apartment Association of Los Angeles. “While most leases have rent due on the first and are late on the second, there is typically a grace period until after the third or fifth of the month, after which a late fee is assessed,” he says.

  • Don’t forget the utilities. Sometimes utilities are included in the rent, and sometimes they are not. The lease should say this.
  • Bring up any changes you plan to make to the apartment unit. Most leases do not allow changes to the interior of the apartment. But this is something that can often be negotiated.

“Whether it is painting an accent wall or changing the carpet to wood laminate, a landlord may be willing to do so if it adds value to the unit or if a higher security deposit is negotiated to cover the cost to bringing the unit back to its original condition for the next resident,” says Tenenbaum.

  • Do diligent research. Before you sign the lease, look at enough other apartments so you feel confident that you’re making a good decision. In San Francisco where demand is high, some apartment buildings may use dynamic pricing, where the rent is actually higher if you look for a home during the weekend versus the middle of the week when fewer people are searching for an apartment. Before you commit, it’s best to take time to carefully think about the place.
  • Ask if your landlord or property manager lives nearby. You’ll also want to know whether your landlord or manager lives near you, in case there’s a problem you need solved by him or her. You also should try to research your landlord online. Just as your landlord will want to know about your background and may ask to do a background check, you should also conduct your own research. You might want to see if there’s a review on www.ReviewMyLandlord.com. You may also want to review how much access your landlord has to the apartment or house you’re renting. Know your rights. A landlord is allowed to come into your apartment but has to give at least 24 hours notice first. In case of serious emergencies like fire, a landlord is allowed to access the apartment even if you’re not around.
  • Avoid deductions from your security deposit. If you’re going to sign the lease, you probably are going to pay a security deposit, which is often a full month’s rent. So before you sign the lease, take a tour of the property with the landlord and take photos, Cox suggests. “Tenants should be sure to note things like stained carpet, windows that don’t open or close, doors that don’t open or close, whether the appliances are working correctly, whether the air filters and vents are clean, whether the oven is dirty and so on.” Otherwise, when you move out, your landlord may blame you for that stain on the carpet, or scratches on the hardwood floors, which means they get to keep a portion of your security deposit.

 

Renting a House? Read these before you sign that lease:

Image result for rent a house
Photo: military.com

 

  • Find out about necessary repairs.

“An important item to look for in your rental lease is who pays for what types of repairs,” says Robert Taylor, a Real Estate Rehabber who has owned and managed rentals in the Sacramento, California, area for 15 years. “If your toilet backs up because of personal items or too much toilet paper, your lease may require you to pay for the plumber.” While that may sound reasonable, “on the other hand, if it’s caused by tree roots or other mechanical failures, then it should be the responsibility of the landlord,” Taylor says.

  • Know about landlord rules on pets. If you have pets, one of your first priorities should be to check if there is a clause about pets. Dogs and cats can do a lot of damage to a house, just as with an apartment. “A tenant may be evicted for not following rules as it relates to pets,” Cox says.
  • Check if there is room for negotiation. Cox says that you may be able to negotiate with a landlord.

“For instance, the tenant could volunteer to pay a non-refundable pet deposit, agree to have the carpets professionally cleaned at set intervals or upon move out, or even agree to replace carpeting upon move out,” she says. She adds that “tenants should keep in mind that pets, in addition to dogs and cats, also include other animals such as rabbits, reptiles and birds.”

  • Understand your responsibility for maintaining appliances.

“State law may not require a landlord to provide appliances, however, local ordinances may. As a result, tenants should make sure that the lease is clear as to who is responsible for maintaining and repairing major appliances,” Cox says, referring to appliances like stoves, air-conditioning, washing machines and dryers and the refrigerator.

“The general rule,” she says, “is that if the landlord supplies the appliance, he or she must repair it.”

Source: US News

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