Nearly everyone is guilty of signing something they didn’t take the time to read at some point in their life. While it’s a somewhat common practice, it is usually best for a person to be aware of what they’re giving their consent to — and this is especially true for renters. For those getting ready to sign their first or fiftieth lease, protection starts with reading the fine print. The leasing contract lays out terms, conditions, and expectations that renters need to understand before they put their signature on the dotted line.
Fees and Deposits
The lease should spell out how much the rent will be for each month, but the rent isn’t the only charge that tenants should be aware of. The lease should contain the following:
- Rent: The lease should say how much the rent is each month and the acceptable forms of payment. It should state the date upon which the rent is due, and if there’s a grace period for late payments. It should also state how much late fees will be.
- Deposits: The most common forms of deposit are security and pet deposits, but each landlord will have their own policies. Ensure the lease states the details of the deposit, including if and how tenants can get their deposit back.
- Additional Charges: Any additional charges should be listed in the agreement, so tenants need to be sure they understand each line item. For example, the landlord may charge a processing fee for certain forms of payment, or a monthly wear-and-tear fee is the tenant has pets.
Utilities and Repairs
The lease should state which utilities are included in the rent, if any. From electric to water to cable services, landlords may choose to cover certain utilities as a perk of renting with them. Renters need to know that they need to cover so they can plan their budgets accordingly. Additionally, not all leases state that landlords pay for all the maintenance and repairs to the property. In some cases, tenants will be responsible for smaller projects that keep the home in good shape like tending to the lawn or replacing the air filters. What a tenant is responsible for will often change how they will budget money or time month-to-month, meaning it is important to understand these things before signing. If a tenant has questions about any financial matters on the lease, they should speak with their potential landlord to understand what is needed from them.
Rules and Other Details
This section of the lease should give the landlord’s policies for how they tenant issues will be handled over time. Tenants need to understand the renewal policies, including rent increases, so they can make better long-term plans. This should also include when the lease starts, when it ends, and what’s included. If a refrigerator and a dishwasher come with the unit, this should be spelled out in the agreement. Tenants should also have the address of the property as well as the address and contact information of the landlord and/or property managers and caretakers.
The rest of the lease should give details about what the tenant can and cannot do. This may include information about the types of pets allowed, what fees are associated with potential damage, and whether or not tenants will be subject to routine inspection. It should state quiet hours of the property and if there are storage facilities available. Finally, the lease should set the terms for who is allowed to stay in the property, where the tenant is allowed to park, and if there are any insurance requirements.
Reading a lease over may take some time and brain power, but tenants who make the effort will usually have an easier time while living on the property. Once a person knows what they can expect, they can plan their time and money accordingly.
Anthony Gilbert REALTOR® ABR®