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Essential Things You Must Do Before Signing a Lease

After a strenuous journey of scouring through neighborhoods for the perfect rental home, you are finally ready to put the pen to the paper. Once a lease agreement is finalized and signed, it’s difficult to resolve certain rental disputes without consulting the lease.

As a tenant, you have to make sure your rental agreement meets your expectations and reflects your rights. To help you, we’ve broken the lease agreement inspection process into five major steps. Before you seal the deal, be smart and take these steps into consideration to save yourself any trouble.

1. Inspect the Property and Record Any Current Damages

Scan for any damages or broken appliances as you are touring through the hallways and around the rooms of prospective apartments and houses. Document anything you may see and inquire about it in order to be on the same page with the landlord. Inspect both the outside and inside condition of the building. Look to see if there are any holes or scratches. Check to see if the quality within the unit is acceptable and if there are any problems with the lighting, electrical wiring and outlets, locks, water pressure of the faucets, and the appliances. Remember to discuss the matter with the landlord if you encounter any defects.

What if you miss this step?

If you fail to properly perform an inspection beforehand, it can work against you since it might be too late to mention these damages and have them fixed once you sign any documents with your landlord. For instance, if you mention these defects in advance to the landlord, then it proves that you were not the one who caused them, easing the process later on for a return on your security deposit and for easy resolution on the situation.

2. Know What’s Included in the Rent

What utilities will your rent include? Rent can cover water, electricity, gas, internet, sewer and trash. Verify what is included so you can budget accordingly for how much in expenses you owe each month. Talk with your landlord to see who is responsible for repairs on the premises as well as other maintenances such as snow removal and lawn care. Some other hidden costs can also include a maintenance fee, parking fee, and costs for a coin-operated laundry.

What if you miss this step?

There are accounts floating on the web where the renter is told that the rent includes a certain utility but once they sign the lease, it turns out that the renter is responsible. Make sure it’s clear who is responsible for which utility so it doesn’t come as a surprise when you realize you’re the one paying for the gas and electric bill, not your landlord!

3. Can You Make Adjustments and Customizations?

Renting a new place can be an exciting process. As any tenant wishes, you want to settle in and make your new home a comfortable place to reside in. Not every property is going to come in a perfect package. You may realize there are a few alterations you’d like to make. Perhaps the walls are too bright for your eyes or the curtains are too short in length. Can you make customizations to the property? This can involve anything such as changing the shower doors, painting the walls or even adding a garden in the backyard. Be sure to ask your landlord first.

What if you miss this step?

Sometimes these customizations are regarded as property damages in your landlord’s eyes. Anyone wants to make their home as personalized as possible, but making these changes without consulting your landlord can result in a loss of your security deposit or possibly even lease termination.

4. Clearly Understand the Terms Within the Agreement and Anticipate Problems

Before signing the lease, read the terms carefully to see what is expected of you. What your landlord says verbally may vary from what’s actually stated in the agreement. Sometimes, it is even possible to negotiate the terms with your landlord, which isn’t just limited to the rent. Other items you can discuss with the landlord can include the duration of the lease term or even the policy for pets. Remember, the lease is an agreement between you and the landlord, not just a set of demands from one party.

What if you miss this step?

You may face accidental consequences if you don’t clearly understand the terms and anticipate problems. Imagine that your goal is to own a dog in 6 months, but you have a year-long lease. Unfortunately, your lease does not allow for pets – and if you break any terms of the lease, you can be subjected to eviction! There are several similar terms that can be easily overlooked.

For instance, you may think that subleasing is allowed, and just when you’re about to leave town and sublease your room for the month, you realize in fine print on the lease document, “Tenants shall not assign or sublet any room.” Consequences can vary from landlord to landlord, so it’s always best to consult them in advance.

5. Communicate with Your Landlord About Your Expectations

Your landlord isn’t just the person accepting monthly rent checks from you. They play a critical role for your housing situation and living condition. It’s important to establish a good relationship with the landlord from the beginning as this could affect your home environment and how smoothly any future issues can be resolved.

Two essential components for maintaining a good relationship include communication and responsibility. If there are ever any areas of concern you wish to address, don’t be afraid to bring it up with your landlord. Communicate what the problem is or what you need. Of course, keep in mind that your landlord might have a big workload so only request help for immediate or serious problems. Your landlord wants to help you settle in and make your home nice and cozy but make this process easier for both ends by communicating and being flexible.

Good communication also includes leaving a nice note for your landlord if they end up fixing the plumbing for you, for instance. Having responsibility as a tenant consists of paying your rent on time, minimizing trouble, and keeping the property in good condition. Be on your Property Manager’s good side! If not, an eviction notice may be the note left for you instead.

What if you miss this step?

If you don’t communicate well with your landlord, you can find yourself on the hook for calling the repairmen, getting things fixed on your own, and running around trying to make sure things are running smoothly in the apartment. In some cases, landlords will ask you to pay for repairs, which you can recoup at the end of the month by paying less in rent. If you are low on cash, this could be an inconvenient arrangement. Working things out with your landlord ensures the best outcome with the least amount of hassle for both sides.

After going through the logistics of what you need to know before renting, you’re finally ready to start moving in and unpacking boxes!


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