Moving into an apartment involves more than unpacking boxes and putting down a deposit. In fact, there are a few other particulars that need to be addressed prior to moving in. For instance, your apartment lease needs to be thoroughly read and signed. That said, many people are in such a hurry to settle into their new apartment home that they do not take the time to go over their rental agreement as they should. If you have been guilty of this in the past, it is understandable, but moving forward, here is everything you need to know and understand about your apartment lease.
Landlord Contact Info
Clearly, one of the most important things you need to know and should be able to locate in your lease is your landlord/property manager’s contact information. For starters, you may need this information to inform your landlord of potential problems/maintenance issues, to confirm rent collection dates, or to discuss unexpected economic hardships. That being said, overall this information should be clearly listed on your rental agreement. Remember, you are entering into a contract with your landlord/property management company, and therefore their information should be a part of your lease.
Break Lease Clause
Yet another crucial component to your rental agreement or contract is the break lease clause. Typically, a rental agreement or an apartment lease will have a clause that covers what will happen in the event you do or wish to break your lease. This section of your rental agreement affords your landlord protection and will explain what damages or fees you will have to pay if you do end up breaking your lease at some point.
Likewise, your rental agreement may have a buyout clause (similar to a break lease clause). In this instance, if you need to move out early, then you will likely have to give 60 days’ notice and pay a two months lease break fee. Since you cannot predict the future, you should always be apprised of the terms and stipulations for ending your early lease termination.
Repairs On Your Rental
Along those same lines, you should know what your lease says about repairs on your rental or apartment home. Here, the good news is that most well-maintained apartment complexes have a maintenance staff, and they are responsible for major repairs on your rental. That said, you should still know what this particular section of your lease says.
Similarly, your rental agreement should cover property maintenance. This area of your lease, generally, explains what kind of regular upkeep you are responsible for. For example, this section may require that tenants keep the common areas free from trash, replace their smoke alarms, and so on. Here is where you will likely find your complex’s trash removal policy and procedures as well.
Are Pets Allowed?
While perusing your lease, make sure you pay extra attention to your complex’s pet policy. Even if you currently do not have any pets, you never know what the future holds. That said, if you do have a family pet or plan on getting one soon, then you need to see if you are required to pay an extra deposit, pet rent, or a cleaning fee once your lease is over. Also, you definitely need to go over what pets are allowed. Some apartment complexes allow only two pets, only cats, or dogs under a certain size.
Automatic Lease Renewal
Whether or not your lease will automatically be renewed varies. Often, it depends on the city or state you are looking to rent in. Obviously, if you do not want to renew your lease automatically, then you should discuss this with your landlord. Most apartment communities in the area, however, tend to inform you that your lease is up in advance. If you wish to continue renting your apartment home, then you will need to stop by the rental office, at some point, to sign a new lease agreement.
Additional Fees Associated with the Rent
Your lease agreement should also cover any additional fees (late rent fees, carport fees, etc.), and what costs are associated with a month-to-month lease if available. It is always a good idea to thoroughly read this section for budget reasons, so there are no surprises later on.
Every now and then, you may stumble across an apartment community that has a homeowners association (HOA). For instance, if your new apartment complex has high-end amenities or luxurious perks, then you might be subject to HOA fees, plus additional rules and regulations. Thus, if you happen to stumble upon an apartment community with an HOA, then your lease will have all the particulars laid out for you.
Additionally, certain landlords will require tenants to obtain renter’s insurance. So, make sure you know where you stand on this issue. Even if your lease does not require renter’s insurance, it is still highly recommended. Having all your belongings insured can save you a lot of money in the event of a fire or a break-in. Therefore, do yourself a favor and get insurance. Some policies will cost you less than $12 a month, so it is more than worth it.
Are Utilities Included?
Another important section of the lease that you should familiarize yourself with is the included utilities section. Your landlord will clearly lay out which utilities are included in the rent as well as what you are expected to cover. More often than not, apartment homes come with water, and trash removal included. Things like heat/air, gas, and electricity, you will likely be responsible for paying each month. The same is true for your internet. Apartment communities may offer Wi-Fi in the common areas/clubhouse, but the majority of apartment complexes require their tenants to pay for their own access.
Alterations to the Rental Property
You should know what your lease states in regard to making alterations to your apartment home. Usually, this portion of the lease will tell you that you can paint your walls, as long as you paint them white again before you leave. That said, every apartment community allows different things, and some do not allow tenants to make any changes. So, if you have plans to turn your second bedroom into a walk-in closet with all the trimmings/fixtures, then take a peek at your lease’s approved alterations list first.
Lastly, your rental agreement should inform you of what to do if you have lost your key. Here, in this section, responsibility for lost keys and who is paying to get the locks changed should be explained in depth. Furthermore, this section of your rental agreement should also go over lockout procedures and protocols. Most apartment complexes will allow you a minimum of one lockout before they charge you, while others may charge you for an after-hours lockout only. Plus, you may need to have your debit card handy when you get locked out. Of course, you will not know for sure until you review this portion of your lease.
As you can see, there is a lot of pertinent information in your rental agreement or lease. Therefore, it is in your best interest to know what you are agreeing to when you sign. If you still need assistance going over your lease or need a professional opinion regarding a few questions, then you should consider speaking with an attorney that handles landlord-tenant law. Ultimately, an attorney will be able to advise you of your rights as a tenant.