You’ve found your dream place and just can’t wait to move in. But don’t rush into signing a lease yet. Here are six important things to do before you take that all-important step.
1. Gather the required paperwork.
Make sure that you have a photo ID (a copy of your driver’s license will do), three recent pay stubs, three recent bank statements and a letter of employment from your company. Some landlords also might ask for a letter of reference from your previous landlord.
2. Make a record of existing damage.
Do a walk-through of the entire apartment with your landlord and take note of existing damage. This step protects you in case an unscrupulous landlord decides to blame you for damaging the apartment at the end of the lease.
Even if you think that some repairs are not needed, make sure the exact condition of the apartment and the appliances in it are recorded in writing so there’s no confusion later.
3. Find out what is included and what is allowed.
Does the monthly rent include utilities? Will you get covered parking? Do tenants have access to the onsite gym? Does the apartment have a refrigerator and a cable connection?
Find out which facilities are included in the monthly rent and what you’ll have to pay for that’s extra. It might make a huge difference in your monthly budget.
Don’t forget to find out whether the landlord is OK with you keeping pets, smoking inside the apartment or painting the walls. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after you sign the lease.
4. Do some research about the landlord.
You’re about to enter into a legal agreement with a relative stranger, so it makes sense that you should do at least some research on the landlord’s reputation. How attentive is the landlord toward the rental property? Does the landlord have any financial problems? Why did the previous tenant move out?
5. Get everything in writing.
Long gone are the days when a deal was closed with just a firm handshake. If the landlord says that cracked bathroom tiles will be replaced, then ask for that promise in writing. If the landlord has given verbal approval to make minor customizations, install new locks or put in new light fixtures, make sure that’s in writing as well.
6. Check and recheck.
Read the fine print carefully to make sure you understand all the terms and commitments. Much of it may be legal mumbo-jumbo, but it is important to be aware of every single word in a legally binding document that you’re about to sign. Are the terms in the agreement the same as what you agreed to verbally? Does it clearly statewhat will happen if you break the lease? What does the lease say about renewal?
Kurt Jacobson is a snowboarding enthusiast with a background in real estate. Having moved 11 times in the past nine years, he thrives on helping others learn from his experiences. When he’s not out shredding the mountain, he writes about all things home-related for HouseHunter.co.