Shopping for a new apartment can be stressful at times & we have all been there after several weeks of searching, as soon as we find the right spot we are just ready to sign our lease to make things final. Its important though not to let the long process make you forget that the lease you are signing is a legally binding contract, and therefore should always be carefully considered. Every property has its own policies concerning things such as lease term length, utilities, pets, deposits, & etc. so its imperative that you are clear on these policies so you know exactly what terms you are agreeing to. It’s always best to be prepared so here are the 10 most important questions to ask before signing a lease.
1. How long is the lease term?
Most leases are for 12 months, but it is also common for properties to offer 6, 9, or even 13 month leases. Just be sure that your desired term length is one that they offer because the last thing you want is to be locked into a term that’s longer than you need it for.
2. What are the penalties for breaking your lease?
If you for whatever reason need to break your lease before the term is over it’s best to be fully aware of precisely what penalties you will be faced with. Things in our lives are constantly changing so it’s best to be prepared if you suddenly have to make a move.
3. When is rent due and what methods of payment are accepted?
In most cases rent is usually due on the 1st, but each property has its own policies. More importantly though is to find out when exactly is the last day rent is accepted before its late. A lot of properties today are pretty up to date with technology and accept payments online in addition to checks and/or money orders, but if this is not the case for a property you are considering, then you’ll have to decide what method will be most convient for you to submit rent before the cut off date.
4. Are they pet-friendly?
If you plan on bringing a four-legged friend this would probably be one of the first things to ask before viewing a unit. You should also make sure your pet is within the weight requirements and that its specific breed is allowed at the property you’re considering if they do have restrictions.
5. Is the security deposit refundable?
All security deposits are refundable by law so if a property claims that they are non-refundable then you know that they have an illegal policy. Although if during your lease damages do occur to your unit, then management is allowed to withhold a corresponding amount of your deposit.
6. Is maintenance available 24 hours in case of emergencies?
If there is ever a situation where one evening your toilet or tub overflows at midnight it’s good to know if your property/landlord will be available around the clock to send the appropriate repair personnel.
7. Are utilities included with rent?
Many property managers differ in which utilities they include in your rental payment, therefore its necessary to find out these specifics so you can be sure of what your additional expenses outside of rent will be.
8. Are there any additional fees?
These can include things such as parking, valet trash, building maintenance, or storage. These fees are minor in comparison to rent, but without knowledge of them ahead of time you’ll be left wondering why your rent is $100 more than expected each month.
9. Are you allowed to customize your apartment’s features?
You may wish to paint the walls of your new place or install new lighting fixtures in the ceiling, but either way you should first check with management to have them go over their policies with you. In most cases if management does allow the altering of their units, then you must make sure it’s returned to its original state/color upon move out.
10. Do they conduct any unannounced unit inspections?
If you are not comfortable with maintenance personnel entering your unit unannounced, then this topic should for sure be touched on prior to signing your lease. Depending on the state you reside in there may possibly be laws in place requiring management to give at least 24 hour notice before entering your unit, but to confirm its best to just have this conversation with management before deciding on a place.
11. What is the guest policy?
Make sure you are aware of the guest policy because in most cases overnight guest policies are fairly lenient, but some properties have much stricter rules.
12. Will the carpet be replaced or steam-cleaned prior to your move in date?
Carpet can house all sorts of germs & microbes especially if the previous owner had pets so for the sake of your health I would make sure that management does provide replacement flooring or cleaning service before signing any documents.
We want for your next move to go as smoothly as possible & your next step at achieving that is to find a great renter’s policy for your new place.