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5 Things to Look for When Signing a Lease

Unsigned Miami Rental Agreement ContractOne of the grave mistakes a Catonsville tenant can make is to not read a lease thoroughly before signing it. This can become a huge problem because there are no two leases that are exactly alike, and some landlords may add things to the list that you would not be wise to agree with. Since a lease is a binding contract, unless a particular clause violates state law, you could be held responsible for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. Before signing anything, go over the entire lease thoroughly. As you review the lease, keep an eye out for these particular items.

1. Documentation of Property Condition

Before signing a lease, you must determine if your landlord has a system for documenting the property’s condition. This is very important; not documenting the property’s condition in some way before moving in could cost you dearly. Be sure to inquire about your landlord’s documentation process and report existing damage that you see before you move in.

2. Termination Policy and Fees

There are leases that can be renewed on a month-to-month basis but most cover a specific time period. Whichever type of lease you have, it is important that you understand your landlord’s policy regarding ending or canceling the lease as well as the fees involved. Some leases require that you give 30-60 days advance notice before your intent to leave. But others can stipulate serious penalties for terminating a lease. For example, if you agree to a 12-month lease but you have to move after six months, you might be required to pay a cancellation fee, the remaining rent on the contract, or both. You may also forfeit some or all of your security deposit. As every lease is different, it is important to go over these policies carefully and ask any questions before signing.

3. Roommates and Subletting

Renting a home does not give you the right to sublet all or part of the home to other people. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. If you plan on subletting your home during a long absence or get a roommate to share with the rent, you have to carefully check if your lease allows that arrangement. It would be very unfortunate if you get caught illegally subletting your place. You could be evicted or be financially responsible for any damage caused during your illegal tenant’s stay in the residence.

4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees

If the home you are looking for is also for a beloved pet, it is a must to check your lease for your landlord’s pet policy. It is a bad idea to hide a pet from a landlord that prohibits them on the property, and most tenants who try this usually get caught. You must anticipate additional fees or a deposit for allowing your pet to stay. You should also check to see that your deposit is refundable in case your pet does not cause any property damage. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. If this is the case, the landlord has to allow the animal on the property without charging any additional fees. If you have one, make sure your landlord knows so you can avoid problems in the future.

5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities

As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. Usually, the landlord provides certain services while requiring you to do others. Usually, tenants are assigned lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. Some landlords prefer that they provide these services themselves and have the property cleaned professionally before you move in. Others expect the tenant to take care of this themselves or let the tenant hire their own professional cleaning company to do the job. Whatever your arrangement may be, you must decide whether you will be able to fulfill your responsibilities before signing the lease.

All of these show why it is important to read your lease carefully. Bring up all your questions and clarifications if necessary. There may be parts of your lease that are negotiable, so if there are things you are not comfortable with, you can ask your landlord for revisions. Because you are the one who has to live with the lease terms, the more you know, the better it is for you.


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