How to Read an Apartment Lease

How to Read Your Apartment Lease

October 5, 2013 | Apartment Hunting, Apartment Hunting Advice

At some point in your life, you’ll find yourself staring at a rental agreement, desperately attempting to decipher the legal language and all the while hoping that you haven’t accidentally agreed to do all of your own repairs. You may be tempted to just go ahead and sign on the dotted line, but not carefully reading your apartment lease can lead to trouble down the road. As you read through your apartment lease, make sure it answers the following questions:

Does It Include Important Basic Information?

Your lease should include all essential information about your apartment that you may need to access while you live there, including who manages the property and that person or company’s address and phone numbers. It should also list the price of rent, the amount of the security deposit and at what point a rent payment is considered late (and if there is an accompanying penalty).

Are Pets Allowed?

If you have a furry friend, be sure to find out whether or not pets are allowed and to make sure that information is listed in the rental agreement. If a fee is charged to pet owners living in the building, that amount should be specified in the document so you can prevent your landlord from taking advantage of you at a later date.

Are There Roommate Restrictions?

While both you are your roommate (or roommates) will likely be there to sign the lease, find out if the landlord puts a limit on the number of people that can live in the apartment. Roommates who do not sign the lease are not legally responsible to pay rent, so you shouldn’t sneak in extra occupants without the landlord’s knowledge.

Who is Responsible for Maintenance?

If your shower drain is clogged or your sink is leaking, it’s important to know who is responsible for fixing the problem. You probably don’t want to have to pay for a plumber yourself, so make sure the apartment lease specifies that the landlord is responsible for repairs.

Can You Make Modifications?

If you’re going to be living in the apartment for some time, you may want to hang pictures on the wall or paint your living room a new color. Some landlords prohibit any major changes, while others will simply charge you a one-time fee for any repainting or maintenance they may have to do when you move out. Find out if you are allowed to make modifications and get it in writing.

Do You Have to Pay for Utilities?

Prior to signing a lease, come to an agreement with your landlord regarding which utilities you will be required to pay. You will almost always be responsible for cable and Internet payments, but some landlords cover heat, electricity or water.

Does it Cover Sublet Rights?

If circumstances change and you have to move out of your apartment mid-lease, you’ll want to know whether or not subletting your space is an option. If it is, are you required to find a subletter? Or will your landlord take care of it? If you can’t find a subletter, are there penalties for breaking your lease? Make sure all of these questions are answered in your rental agreement.

[Image Source: Flickr - Jess Liotta]

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