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What All Renters Should Know About Their Lease

You’ve found what you feel is the perfect home and you’re about to sign on the dotted line. Hopefully before doing so you have carefully read your lease. Let’s face it, that lease dictates a great deal about how you will be living – at least for the next year.

Leases can be confusing and they’re generally jam-packed with words you don’t really understand, along with plenty of information only a lawyer could comprehend. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad about it because most people have been in your shoes at one time or another. The good news? We’re going to help you figure it all out so you’ll be prepared the next time you’re looking to lease.

Leases should always contain a lease term so make sure you know the date when it’s up or when you need to sign on for another year. Also, be aware of when your rent is due and the exact amount, along with any fees you need to pay up front (for example a security or pet fee) or how much extra you have to pay if you have to pay your rent late. One more thing, be aware of how much and when your security deposit will be returned.

Other pertinent information you need to understand about clauses in your lease:

 

  • Premise conditions. This covers both you and your landlord. Your landlord must legally swear that the property is habitable, meaning there’s no infestations or mold and that everything is working properly. If you move in and find your landlord hasn’t been honest, you can terminate the lease. For your part, when you sign the lease you are promising to leave the rental in the condition it was when you first rented it. If you don’t, the landlord can use your security deposit to make repairs or even sue you.
  • Make sure you list everyone on the lease who will be living in the rental so that everyone is responsible for any issues that might occur.
  • The part of the lease states that you are not allowed to make any changes to the property unless it has been approved by your landlord. Always be aware of what you’re allowed to do and what you can’t do.
  • This is the part of the lease that explains how the lease ends but typically it goes past the end date. Some leases have an automatic renewal clause, meaning you would be renewing for another year if you don’t tell your landlord in advance. If you didn’t know about the clause and tried to end the lease afterward, you could have to pay early termination fees.
  • If you have pets, pay special attention to this clause because it tells you what you need to know about having pets in your rental. The clause should state how many pets, the kind of pet, its age and whether you paid a pet deposit and if it’s returnable or if there’s a pet rent.
  • This is anything your landlord might add to the lease, outside of the normal procedures, i.e., visitors, noise clauses, etc. However, remember that any addendums must be lawful and not just something your landlord tries to enforce.

 

First and foremost, remember that once you sign a lease it is legally binding. Once it’s signed you must adhere to it. Likewise, once it’s signed your landlord can’t change anything in the lease without your approval.

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