When you rent an apartment, you enter into a contract with your landlord, so it’s important that you understand all the terms and conditions of that contract.
Your landlord or an agent of your landlord will likely go over your lease with you at the time of your signing or have you read it before you sign. This is the best time to ask for clarification if there’s anything you’re not sure about. But this should not be the last time you ever look at your lease.
You will receive a copy of your lease that, of course, you should keep on file in a safe place. When you first receive that copy, you should look it over and refresh yourself on the important points:
- The amount of your rent, when it’s due, and how you are to pay and where you should send/bring it
- Late fees, fees for bad checks, and other charges you could incur
- What utilities are included in rent and what you need to pay yourself
- The duration of the lease, especially the exact end date
- Rules about renewing your lease and when you can expect to receive a renewal notice
- Rules about ending your lease early in the event of a job transfer or other situation
- Parking regulations
- How to report maintenance issues and other concerns
- What, if anything, your are responsible for by way of repairs (most commonly, renters are responsible for changing light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors)
- Your landlord’s contact information
- Your exact address
- Stipulations regarding your security deposit (when will it be returned, and what do you have to do when you move out to ensure its return)
Yes, some of these points are basic, but you’d be surprised what can slip your mind amidst the chaos of moving. Plus, if you give everything a second look right away, you’ll be more likely to remember it later on when things like renewing your lease become a more immediate concern. When you come across phone numbers for maintenance and your landlord’s office, save them in your phone and also write them down in an address book or save them in some other secondary location.
If you have a question for your landlord about something, take a moment to pull your lease out of its safe spot and see if anything written in it answers your question. If not, call your landlord and ask. If you’re even the least bit unsure about what your lease states about a certain issue, such as under what conditions you would be allowed to end the lease early, call your landlord for clarification and write yourself a note to attach to the lease for future reference. When you’re done, remember to put the lease back in its safe spot.
Knowing your lease is the key to having a good experience renting, so if it’s been a while since you looked at yours and you’re fuzzy on the terms, pull it out and give it a read.