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    How to Review an Apartment Lease

    2 weeks ago · · 0 comments

    How to Review an Apartment Lease

    Justin Becker

    Updated: June 27, 2022

    One of the most important steps when renting an apartment is to review the lease agreement. The paperwork, in theory, defines your stay in the apartment complex, meaning it can either make or break your apartment living experience (learn how to adjust to apartment living here).

    So, before signing the new lease agreement, be sure you understand what you are getting yourself into. Some lease agreements are extremely restrictive, and they may not be what you desire.

    Having said that, many people are unsure of what to look for while reviewing a rental agreement. Knowing how to read a lease agreement might help you avoid the pitfalls many renters face when looking for a place to live.

    How to Review an Apartment Lease

    LEASE AGREEMENT CONCEPT

    When going over a lease agreement, take your time and review all of the terms in order to make sure you don’t miss anything. Inquire about any clauses you do not understand with the landlord.

    If you are unsure how to review a lease agreement, here is everything you need to know:

    What is a Rental Lease Agreement?

    A rental lease agreement is a contract between a landlord and a tenant that allows the renter to lease a rental property for a specific time and under specific conditions.

    The lease agreement also states both parties’ responsibilities during the lease period, such as repair and maintenance responsibilities (learn what is considered a maintenance emergency in an apartment here), the property manager’s duties, and explicit measures to take if either party decides to terminate the lease before its expiration date, known as the early termination provision.

    Should I Have a Lawyer Review My Apartment Lease?

    A common question is: “should I have a lawyer review my apartment lease?” The quick answer is yes.

    Have an attorney review the lease, if possible, because it is a legally binding contract that you cannot terminate unless you complete certain obligations.

    Hire an attorney to assist you in review before you sign a lease agreement. In general, not everyone has a legal background, and the legal context inside the agreement may be unclear or difficult to comprehend, which is why seeking assistance is a good idea.

    The expense of hiring a lawyer may be a few hundred dollars, but it is well worth it because the repercussions of breaking a lease agreement could be much more costly.

    Let’s now take a look at which provisions of the lease agreement you should pay attention to:

    Length of the Lease and Monthly Rent

    This clause states the time you are contractually required to stay on the premises, which could be one month, three months, six months, 12 months, and so on. This is not to suggest that you can’t leave before the lease ends if you want to. It is possible to leave, however, you may be required to compensate the landlord in accordance with the early termination clause. Learn how to break a lease without penalty here.

    If you move out regularly, a month-to-month or three-month lease duration may be a good option. This will protect you from having to pay an early termination fee. Many landlords require a 30-day notice if you want to leave. If you fail to do so, you will forfeit your security deposits, which will be used to cover the next month’s rent, and/or you will face the repercussions outlined in the lease for leaving without notice within the specified time frame.

    This is also where you can find out how much rent is each month and what happens if you don’t pay on time. If the landlord wants to raise the rent after a year, he will specify how much the rent increases.

    That said, pay close attention to this section and double-check that the rent amount you agreed on is shown here. If it isn’t, discuss your concerns with the landlord while you still have leverage.

    Rent Payment Instructions

    When and how will you pay your rent dues? All are stipulated in this section. Most lease agreements require rent to be paid on the first of each month. The lease will also outline the grace period if you can’t pay rent by this date.

    The grace time/period allows you to submit your dues as required without incurring late fees. That said, knowing how much the landlord will charge you if you don’t pay your rent on time is crucial.

    Since you may not pay your rent in time for various reasons, it is wise to speak with your landlord ahead of time. You should strive to have a positive relationship with your landlord and always keep the lines of communication open.

    Security Deposit

    The lease will specify the amount of deposit you must pay. This is often one to one and a half months’ worth of rent. For example, if the rent amount is $1,500, your security deposit can be up to $2,250.

    It is important to note that the deposit is always paid upfront, just like renters insurance is required before moving-in (find out if renters insurance required in Michigan?). That said, budget for such charges with a savings of several months of rent before seeking to move-out. Learn more about how to move-out of your current apartment here.

    The security deposit is used to cover the cost of any repairs, upon move-out, that may be required if you damage any of the property’s items. Furthermore, if you opt to break your lease early, the money could be utilized to pay rent. If you are unsure about security deposits, here is everything you need to know about Michigan security deposit law.

    In addition, this section will detail how you can reclaim your deposit. If it is unclear, ask the landlord to explain how to make that possible and include it in the agreement. Learn how to get your security deposit back here.

    Pets Clause: Is it Pet-Friendly?

    Most apartments have pet clauses unless they completely do not allow pets which is becoming more and more uncommon. The apartment community often stipulates how many pets are allowed per tenant, which usually can be found in their apartment pet policy.

    The policy will give terms and conditions in which the pets are admitted into the community. For example, the apartment management may require you to attend a pet interview before moving into the apartment building (here is how to pet-proof an apartment). This is to determine whether or not your pet is aggressive. If it is, it will not be permitted in the community.

    This section will also outline how much you should pay for pet rent and pet fees/pet deposits.

    Additional Fees

    Additional fees may include utilities, trash services, parking fees, and administrative charges, such as third-party billing services (discover more about what bills come with an apartment here). To avoid any surprises, double-check that all additional charges have been captured.

    Deadline for Lease Termination

    How much advance notice are you supposed to give the landlord?

    The lease specifies the time frame you must notify the landlord of your intention to terminate the rental agreement. It could be 30 or 60-days before you move out. For example, if your lease requires you to give notice 30-days before moving out and you only give it 29 days prior, you may be subject to a penalty that includes one month’s rent.

    Ideally, depending on the terms of your rental agreement regarding notices, this could result in you losing your security deposit or incurring additional fees.

    Maintenance

    This section outlines who is accountable for which types of repairs and maintenance. The good news is that renters have fewer maintenance responsibilities than homeowners. The landlord normally handles major maintenance tasks, leaving you less to do, which means lower costs.

    Make sure not to rely on word of mouth regarding maintenance responsibilities. If the landlord agrees to handle all maintenance, ensure it is written down or reflected in the lease. In addition, know these apartment maintenance tips so you increase your chances of getting your deposit back.

    Subletting

    If you plan to sublet your apartment in the future, read this section and establish whether it is permitted. Some landlords accept subletting, however this might be difficult because the apartment lease is ideally in your name rather than the new renter’s, making you ultimately responsible. If the new tenant damages the property, you will be liable for penalty charges.

    Do not confuse subletting and lease takeover. Learn what a lease takeover is here.

    Early Termination Provision

    Sometimes moving apartments within a short period of time is unavoidable. If you are aware of this possibility (especially if your work necessitates a lot of movement), talk to your landlord about putting in an early termination provision that works for both sides.

    Working up a clause for early lease termination will help you avoid a never-ending battle with your landlord, which could result in financial losses on your part and hurt your rental history.

    Occupants

    Are you looking for a roommate to share a rental property with? If this is the case, talk to your landlord about whether or not that is OK. Some landlords are hesitant to allow renters to join forces with roommates due to the worry that if one moves out, then the other may be unable to afford the apartment on their own.

    Do you know how to split rent with your roommate? Learn how to do that here.

    Eviction

    The eviction provision specifies what actions the landlord will take if you default on your rent payments. Usually, this clause comes into effect after the grace period has been exhausted.

    In most cases, the landlord will not evict you the day after the clause takes effect, mainly because the court system does not work that fast. Depending on the jurisdiction of the local authorities, the landlord will issue you advanced notice. If you do not resolve the issue, they have the authority to initiate a lawsuit to terminate your tenancy. If the landlord wins the lawsuit, you will be given a window of time to move your belongings from the apartment premises before it can be legally thrown out.

    This is never a good sight for anyone, so it is always a good idea to prepare your budget and keep a cash reserve in case your income is interrupted. In addition, make sure your rental price is not above 30% of your income to avoid overspending or living above your means.

    No Party Zone?

    The only thing that separates you and your neighbor is a wall, and any loud music could be disruptive to other tenants. Determine whether the apartment allows parties and, if so, within what time period the gathering is authorized.

    Noise complaints are prevalent in apartment buildings. If you are on the list of repeat offenders, you could risk penalties and eviction if your lease terms support it.

    Tips for Reviewing Your Lease Agreement

    Now that you know how to review an apartment lease, here are a few more pointers to consider:

    Allow for Plenty of Time

    Rushing through a lease agreement is never a smart idea since you may miss out on some of the most important details that will affect your apartment living experience. That said, go over the leasing agreement when you are not in a rush to get everything covered.

    Ask Questions for Clarity Purpose

    Know what to ask when apartment hunting. Ask questions about any clause that looks ambiguous or seems difficult to understand, as the landlord should be aware of everything written on the agreement. Skipping clauses because you did not understand them may cost you money in the long run.

    Prioritize Reviewing the Lease with the Landlord

    If you wish to go through the lease, it is best to do it with the landlord right there with you. This will help you understand any provisions that are unclear to you and make it easy to ask any questions that you deem necessary.

    Tying it All Together

    A lease agreement is a binding contract that requires careful consideration before signing it. Understanding the lease’s terms will help you avoid future conflicts with the landlord. Take your time, be patient, and only sign if you feel absolutely comfortable.

    Tags: Tips

    Categories: Apartment

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    About The Author

    Justin Becker is a property owner in the state of Michigan and has a passion for managing communities. He owns both apartment complexes and mobile home communities and has been writing his own blogs for his properties for several years.