Navigating Your Lease Agreement


There will come a time in life when you find yourself in search of a new place. When you come across that dream apartment of yours, you will likely need to sign a lease agreement prior to moving in. A lease can be a confusing document, since it’s laced with legal jargon that might be difficult to grasp without any previous experience.

A lease is a legally binding contract between a landlord (the property owner) and the tenant (a person who is renting the space). Typically a multi-page document, an agreement covers the conditions a tenant must follow in order to occupy the apartment. Not to mention, it also describes the responsibilities of the landlord. As you move closer to signing a lease, be sure you have a full understanding of everything the document entails. If you don’t, always ask questions for clarification and get everything in writing.

The details of the property and unit should be stated somewhere near the top of the agreement. Items like address and apartment number, landlord and maintenance contact information, start to end date of rental contract and if the apartment comes furnished or not should all be included in this section. Look out for the part regarding renewal/termination as well as the policies about increasing rent prices.

I think it’s safe to assume that money matters to renters. And because of that, it’s good to keep a watchful eye on the deposit, fees and rent amounts that are stated in your lease. Make sure the amounts stated are the ones you had agreed upon. There should be a few lines on what day the rent is due, what day it’s considered late and the associated penalties, and the acceptable payment methods (i.e. online pay, check, money orders, etc.).

Read – don’t scan – over the entire clause regarding information about utility setup.  Ask your landlord if any utilities, such as water or electricity, are included in your rent. Some communities may offer an “allowance” for basic services up to a certain amount. If you go over that allowance, you will be expected to cover the remaining balance.

The lovely thing about apartment living – besides the cool amenities you have at your fingertips – is the fact that you never have to worry about paying a repair for a busted pipe or faulty AC unit. Maintenance brings peace of mind for a lot of renters, because these costs would be extremely expensive otherwise. Read the lease carefully to understand what is covered and what may not be. Normal wear and tear of apartment features, a broken appliance and building maintenance are typically covered.

You’ll also want to be aware of other policies and clauses that you may find within your lease, such as renters insurance, pets in the apartment, community rules and regulations, grounds for eviction, subletting, etc. It’s a good idea to read over the entire thing, and you may want to request a copy for yourself to review.  For more information regarding lease agreements, check out our Lease blog!

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