Signing a Lease

Keep in mind the following before signing a lease. 

  • Repairs — If nothing is stated in the lease, the landlord may deduct from your security deposit for repairs you assumed were the landlord's responsibility. Make sure the lease states that the landlord is responsible for correcting and paying for all repairs, except those that were caused by your negligence or carelessness. If the landlord verbally agrees to make repairs have those included in the lease.
  • Rental Payments — The amount of rent and its due date should be clearly specified. Ask if there is a grace period for late fees and whether each roommate can pay separately.
  • Security Deposit — The specific amount required for the security deposit should be clearly stated, as well as any conditions for its return. Inquire about when it will be returned. Security deposits must be placed in an escrow account and the landlord must notify you in writing, within 30 days, of the name of the bank, account number, and interest rate.
  • "As Is" Clause — Beware of clauses in the lease which stipulate the premises "as is," describing the present condition of the dwelling. Modify the lease by adding the clause "except for those repairs which are needed." Include a thorough list of needed repairs with agreed dates for completion. If you do not, it may be difficult to force the landlord to correct any problems discovered during the inspection of the apartment. Be sure to get any verbal promises from the landlord for repairs or cleaning in writing, along with completion dates, in case the landlord refuses to alter the lease.
  • Utilities — Check to see if you will be paying for utilities and figure their cost into your budget. The present occupant, the landlord, or the neighbor may give you estimates on the costs.
  • Length — Examine the length of the lease period closely. If your agreement is on a month-to-month basis, rather than a specific period, you should beware that the landlord can raise the rent or evict you at the end of a rental period with as little as 30 days notice. A written lease for a nine-month or one-year period can protect you from rent increases or eviction for no reason during that time.
  • Landlord's Access — Some leases allow your landlord to enter your apartment at any time for any reason without your consent. Protect your right to privacy by stipulating that the landlord must give 24 hours notice and obtain your consent prior to entry, except in the case of an emergency.
  • Subletting or Assignment Clause — Check the lease to determine whether subletting or assignment is allowed and, if so, under what conditions. If you plan on sharing an apartment with any other roommate not specified on the lease, this can be considered subletting. Make sure the lease indicates how many people may occupy the apartment and whether or not subletting is allowed.
  • Rules of Behavior — Be sure that all rules are clear and in writing. Often these include, but are not limited to, pets, parties, and quiet hours. If you are renting a condo, read the condo association's rules, checking the policy regarding guests and/or restrictions.
  • Addendum — In addition to a standard lease, many landlords add pages of addenda. Ensure that you read these carefully and understand them because they are a legal part of the lease and are binding once signed.