The lease must include the amount due, when payment is due, and where to send the payment. If your lease does not state a due date, ask your landlord when rent is due and what type(s) of payment are accepted.
Deposits generally range in amount from one half to a full month’s rent.
At the end of the tenancy, the owner must return the deposit or submit an explanation why the deposit or any part of it has been withheld. You should find out the exact purpose for which the deposit will be used and the circumstances affecting its refund.
The lease should list which utilities are included in the lease, and which you will need to pay separately.
By law, the landlord is required to keep the property in good repair. You are responsible for maintaining the condition of the property except for reasonable wear and tear. The terms of the lease should list what repairs you and the landlord are individually responsible for completing. If you feel there are responsibilities not outlined in the lease, ask the landlord before signing the lease.
Many landlords do not allow pets; make sure you ask permission first. Along with your security deposit, you may need to pay an additional pet deposit if you choose to have a pet while leasing.
You must have permission from the landlord to have anyone other than yourself living with you in your unit. This person should be added to the lease or stated in an additional document signed by the landlord.
DO NOT sign a lease with blank spaces in it. The lease should be filled out completely before you sign it. Look at the lease carefully after you and the landlord have signed to make sure that the landlord has not written anything else on the lease that you did not agree to. Request a copy of the signed lease.
• DO insist on seeing your unit BEFORE signing the lease. Model units are OK when first visiting a complex, but insist on seeing the actual unit you'll be renting before you sign.
• DO talk to tenants at the complex before signing the lease to find out if the landlord is responsive to tenant concerns.
• DO read the lease carefully to make sure you understand everything in it. If you have questions, call an attorney for advice.
• DO walk through the unit and document all existing damage when you move in.
• DO ask the landlord for copies of everything you've signed—this includes the lease, the damage checklist, any rental rules and regulations and anything else you've signed. Keep these documents in a safe place. If you lose paper documents, have the documents scanned and e-mail them to yourself.
• DO arrange for all utilities to be switched to your name on the day you will be taking over the unit. Water, electric and gas can usually be switched just by calling the utility provider. Cable and satellite companies usually require you to be present to install services. You may need a reference to open a new account.
• DON'T put yourself in a position where you “have” to sign a lease—give yourself enough time to find a place. You are committing a lot of money to a lease, and you are committing to live in this place for at least the term of the lease. Make sure you can walk away if you don't feel comfortable signing a lease with this particular landlord or for this particular property.
• DON'T sign a lease at the first complex you visit—look around! You can always go back to that complex after seeing what else is on the market.• DON'T sign a lease that has blank spaces. The landlord may try to add something later.
• DON'T hide things from the landlord when looking for a place. For example, if you plan on having a roommate, both of you should meet with the landlord, and both of you should be on the lease.
• How many people are allowed to live in the unit?
• What utilities are tenants responsible for paying, and what is the average monthly cost of these utilities?
• Are there any unusual arrangements for utilities (for instance, you pay a prorated share of heat bill as part of monthly rent)?
• How old is the unit? When was the last major renovation?
• If built in 1978 or earlier—lead paint information must be given to tenant. Any major damage to the unit in past (fire, flood, etc.)?
• Does the landlord allow pets, and if so, what are the restrictions regarding sizes and breeds?
• How has the rental been cleaned if the landlord allowed pets in the past?
• Has the landlord received any complaints about any of the current tenants near where you will be living?
• Are tenants responsible for any repairs or maintenance, including lawn care and snow removal?
• What parking is available, and is there an additional fee?
• Ask for tenant references—current tenants, prior tenants.
• Landlords may give only names of tenants that will give favorable reports—if you're going to sign a lease, consider knocking on some doors near where you will be living and ask them about any problems in the building.