Don’t Sign That Lease Yet

When looking for a living rental, whether being an apartment, loft or house; you may have a lot lingering in your head such as, questions, expectations, plans and maybe even excitement or stress. Perhaps you’re excited about turning your new place into a home and decorate (which is my favorite), or you are nervous about your move. No matter what your situation, when shopping for living rentals, the most important thing you must do is to thoroughly study your lease before signing it. Aside from reviewing the lease, always ask your landlord or apartment manager questions about renting, or about any other aspect of life in your perspective new dwelling. He or she should be helpful and must address all your queries, and more importantly, put what you’ve discussed into writing in case you have to return back to it for reference. Whatever you do, always read your lease, and don’t adjourn it for after you sign it.

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So, what are some important questions to ask when looking at rentals before signing a lease???

  • How much is the rent?
    • Questions about rent cost are very basic yet very crucial, as the apartment must fit your budget of course. You may be able to even negotiate a change in the rents price, but some landlords are settled for what they want to rent their property for. Keep in mind that it may send a red flag that you may have difficulties in paying your rent if you ask to lower the price.
  • When is the rent due?
    • Usually rent is due on the first of every month, but it may be different due to your move in date. Sometimes an extension is available, so ask if there is one, and if there is interest or a fee attached to your late payment.
  • What is the length of the lease?
    • Some leases are month to month, every half year or yearly. If you are renting a room, a lease is normally weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or yearly. It is also important to be aware of what happens when your lease is up since some landlords do renew the lease, and some may just void it and allow the tenant to stay as long as they continue to pay their rent.
  • Under what circumstances can I break the lease?
    • Some landlords allow their tenants to break their lease once they prove that they have been relocated for work or have purchased a house, keep in mind that not all do. Some landlords or agencies may even allow you to break your lease due do crime such as a burglary. A few years ago, my apartment was robbed while I was at school, and my landlord allowed me to break my year lease since I was worried I may be targeted again because I was barely home and lived by myself. Leases can also be broken if the landlord does not keep their end of the bargain as well.
  • Which utilities am I responsible for?
    • Utilities make a big impact in apartment costs, so be sure to gather as much information about them as possible. If you are responsible for electricity, heat, trash and/or water, you want to make sure you can afford those payments within your budget. If utilities are included, you should know if there are any limitations. Some places have a set thermostat with a limit temperature and timer included when heat is included.
  • What is the cost of the utilities for the apartment I would like to rent?
    • To help budget your cost, ask the property owner what is the normal monthly rate for utilities. If he or he is unaware, you have the ability to call your local utility companies, and request an estimate based upon the past usage of previous tenants.

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  • Is the heating electric or gas?
    • Generally it is cheaper to heat water with gas than with electric. Electricity costs about four times as much as natural gas for the same amount of heat. If a dwelling is heated by electricity, it’s especially important to call the utility company to find out about past electric bills at that address.
  • Who is responsible for hot water?
    • Sometimes the landlord pays for hot water, and sometimes tenants pay. Hot water is often the second biggest part of your utility bill, so it’s important to ask this question before renting. Again, call the utility company to find out what past gas and electric bills have been for that address.
  • Am I provided with cable, satellite service or internet?
    • Some places include internet with a monthly limit of GB usage while cable may only include only certain channels.
  • Who is in charge of yard work?
    • Some rentals include yard work such as snow plowing, and mowing of grass as well as bush trimming in the rent. Not all rentals include these services and it is the tenants responsibility to care for the properties yard. My rent includes all yard work, except my own personal gardening of course 🙂

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  • What is the parking situation?
    • This is a very important question if you own a car. Check if you will be provided with your own parking spot, and ask whether your guests can use other parking spaces when they visit your place. If there are no off street parking spaces available, it’s good to know where parking on the street is available, the distance from there to your dwelling, as well as the city/town laws in regard to parking on the street. Some cities have alternating parking days while others may not.
  • Can I make improvements in the apartment?
    • We sometimes may not like how the sink or shower spits out water, and may want to change faucets. Check and see if there is anything in the dwelling that you would like to have changed, and see if you can change it. Some landlords may even deduct from your rent if you show proof of cost for your efforts.
  • Can I re-paint or hang décor?
    • This is important as well. You might have found the perfect location, but what if its walls are painted in a dreadful color? Some landlords will allow you to re-paint while others won’t. Some rentals also will not allow to have anything hanging on the walls due to the potential damage from drilling holes or hammering nails. Details about redesigning should be included in the lease.
  • Is there a lot of noise? Are there rules to noise?
    • If noise is a huge issue for you, you better make sure you know if other tenants or neighbors make a lot of it. If you are one who creates the noise, ask what are the limits, and if it will be a problem. You have to show neighbors respect no matter where you move. Having company shouldn’t be an issue, but when it’s loud company, it can be.
  • Can I have pets?
    • Ask about the pet policies. Each place will have its own set of rules and regulations about pet ownership. Some will allow pets while others won’t. Some communities are very particular and will even look into a pet’s breed type and weight. Additional security deposits may apply for your pet, and you should be aware, just as the landlord should be aware of your pet’s presence.
  • Can I sublease?
    • In some rentals, you will be allowed to take in a roommate or perhaps, add another name to the lease after moving in. Make sure this option is available in case you are in need for the extra help with expenses or just want to help out a family or friend.

When looking at rentals and asking questions, try to think in both the long and short term. There are lots of rentals out there, and asking the right questions is key to choosing the best one for you.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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