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Residential Leases Part 2: Signing a Lease

You have conducted a walkthrough of the property with the landlord, and you want to move into your new home. You will now enter into an agreement with your landlord called a lease. The lease should be put into writing, and it should explain all of the essential terms of your agreement to rent the property. Before signing a lease, there are several questions you will need to ask, which are summarized below.

What to Consider Before Signing a Lease

A lease is a legal contract which creates certain obligations for both you and your landlord. Since the lease is a binding legal contract, it should be read thoroughly, and you should understand all of the terms before you sign it. This can seem like a daunting task, but it is an important one. You need to be sure that you can abide by all of the terms of the lease, and that the lease accurately reflects your agreement with the landlord.

While reading the lease, some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does the amount of rent and the dates of occupancy match what you discussed?
  • What happens if you are late on your payment or cannot make your payment one month?
  • Who is responsible for paying utilities and maintaining the property?
  • What happens at the end of the lease; does it automatically renew, and what do I need to do to let my landlord know if I want to extend my tenancy or not?
  • What happens if I want to move out before the end of my lease term?
  • What happens to my security deposit when I move out?

Once the lease is signed by both the landlord and the tenant, it becomes binding for both parties. If something in the lease seems unfair or unreasonable, you should ask your landlord to change the lease accordingly before you sign it. If your landlord is unwilling to make your requested changes, and cannot provide a satisfactory reason, then you will have to decide if the issue is important enough to cause you to rethink renting the property. If any requirement in the lease is a deal breaker, then you should tell the landlord that you are not willing to accept the term, and, therefore, you will not sign the lease unless he changes it. No matter how nice the property appears to be, it is inevitable that something will come up that will require your landlord’s cooperation. If he is unwilling to address your reasonable concerns about the language of the lease, then he may not be reasonable when you need him to live up to his obligations as a landlord either.

Many renters have the tendency to assume that everything will go well and that none of the fine print of the lease will come into play. If every landlord-tenant relationship went perfectly, there would be no need for a lease in the first place. The reason the lease exists is because, unfortunately, sometimes the landlord and tenant disagree (thus, you should always try to have other housing options). The lease serves to let each side know what is expected of them so that there will be no arguments regarding the main terms of the agreement.

After signing a lease, make sure to keep a copy of it somewhere safe. This way, if you have questions down the road regarding your rental property, you will be able to review your lease to see if it answers your questions.

Stay tuned for Residential Lease Part 3: Credit Check for Renters by subscribing to the Discover blog!



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