When you enter any kind of legal agreement, it can be very overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to look for in the documents you’re signing. First and foremost, don’t allow yourself to be pressured into signing any document until you’ve read it first.
If you don’t understand what you’re signing, ask someone you trust. If someone won’t allow you the time to do this, walk away. You have every right to gain a full understanding of any agreement before you sign it, and you should get a copy after you sign it!
Here is a checklist of items you should be aware of when signing a lease:
- Signatures. The landlord and any occupants should sign the lease. If you plan to have roommates, they should sign the lease, too. Otherwise, they’re not legally obligated to pay rent.
- Basic information. The property manager’s name, address and phone number, and the specific property being rented should be included so you get the property that you were shown. Make sure you know who should be paid, how they should be paid, when they should be paid, and how to ensure that person receives payment.
- Security deposit. How much is it? Is it refundable or non-refundable? How can you lose it? When must it be returned to you after you move out?
- Basic terms. Monthly rent, what is considered a late payment, late payment penalties, length of the lease, renewal and termination notices, and consequences of breaking the lease for both sides should be included.
- Maintenance and repairs. Who is responsible for what? Whether it’s a leaky pipe, a drafty window or a clothes dryer that takes three hours to do the job, make sure this is crystal clear so you don’t get stuck with a bill for something that you don’t think is your responsibility.
- Utilities. It’s important to understand what utilities are provided by your landlord and what you will need to pay for.
- Pets. Are pets allowed? Is there an extra fee or security deposit if you have pets?
- Amenities. What kind of access do you have to parking, laundry facilities, a fitness center, clubhouse and other amenities? Is there an additional fee?