A lease (or rental agreement) is a legal document that those who rent or lease property must sign. This document sets the terms of the agreement and protects both renter and landlord. Before signing a lease, keep these do’s and don’ts in mind:
- Go on a walkthrough of the property and list any previous damage (such as carpet stains or scuffed woodwork) prior to signing the lease. This will decrease the risk that you will be charged for previous damage when you move out. If the landlord says that the damage will be repaired before you move in, get that in writing.
- Learn what utilities and other fees are your responsibility. This information should be clearly stated in the lease agreement.
- Find out what will happen if your rent is late. Some landlords may grant a short grace period, but after that, you will likely begin to accrue late fees and could risk eviction. If you split rent with a roommate, ask what will happen if one renter pays late while the other pays on time.
- Ask if the landlord lives onsite or if there is a property manager on call. It is important to have access to immediate help if the unit requires emergency repairs.
- Make sure you understand the terms of notice for landlord entry. In many states, a landlord must provide 24 hours’ notice prior to entering your property for inspections or repairs.
- Read the lease in full and ask questions about anything you do not understand. If something seems off, ask someone who has experience with renting for their opinion. Do not sign a lease until you are sure that it is the right choice for you.
While some of these suggestions are specific to renting a house or apartment, many are also relevant if you are renting or leasing a car or another piece of equipment. No matter the situation, make sure you read the lease or rental agreement in full and understand your rights and responsibilities.