Before You Sign a Lease
There are a whole host of important property aspects to look for before signing a lease.
Look carefully at the property, and take your time.
Check things such as:
- Is it clean inside and out?
- Do the faucets work?
- Are there plumbing leaks under the sink?
- Are the toilets working?
- Are the refrigerator and other appliances in good shape? Look inside them.
- Are any of the windows broken or cracked.
- Is there adequate water pressure in the shower?
- Are the smoke detectors, door locks, and any amenities maintained well?
- Are there cracks or water stains on the ceiling or walls?
Don't rent a place if:
- The owner doesn’t have a rental or lodging license posted.
- Your bedroom ceiling is less than seven feet high.
- You live in a third floor attic that does not have two stairways leading to the ground.
- The room you sleep in does not have a window or door that leads to the outside.
- There are four or more people sleeping in a single bedroom.
Many of the above are legal requirements for tenancy to protect you and ensure safety.
Get the name and address of the owner and/or manager.
You must be given this information by law. It should be posted at the property and noted in the lease. Also, ask if there is a caretaker or other person responsible to handle maintenance requests or other housing problems.
It pays to investigate your landlord and the property.
Talk to current or prior tenants and ask how they would rate the property and landlord. Contact the local city housing inspections office to see if there is a record of serious repair problems at the property. You can find out if the landlord has been a party to lawsuits by checking with the County Conciliation Court
Know what you're signing before signing it.
Don't sign anything, including an application or a lease, until you read it carefully and understand what it means. Ask questions if you aren't sure. Look at what your rent covers. Do you have to pay extra for utilities, internet, cable, parking, and garbage; or are they included? If possible, take a day or so to review the lease before you sign and/or consult with a housing specialist or attorney to fully understand its meaning. Get copies of all documents you sign.
Get everything in writing.
If the landlord makes any promises to fix or change something before you move in, get this agreement in writing before you sign a lease or pay a deposit.
Talk the lease over with roommates.
Make sure all roommates understand and agree that each is fully obligated under the terms of the lease. You are individually and jointly responsible for the payment of all rent due and any damage to the property. Ask your landlord about the zoning occupancy limits, which is maximum number of unrelated persons who can live there.
Understand the deposit restrictions.
Don't pay a nonrefundable deposit to hold the property unless you are sure you want to rent. Ask to review the lease before paying the deposit. Know the landlord’s requirements to get your full deposit back when you end the lease.