Top 3 Terms to Look at Before Signing a Lease

1For those of you who are over 18 and have never rented or had to sign a lease, you are extremely lucky or are still living with your parents.  If you are still living with your parents, they may be giving you a lease ultimatum soon so take note.

In my experience as an attorney I have come across several situations where people are unhappy with their lease arrangement.  Leases cover a myriad of terms from subletting to pets and guests, to automatic renewal clauses.

Most of these terms are normal and expected, but some of these terms often catch people by surprise.

Here are three terms (in no particular order) you will find in every lease that you should specifically look for before signing a lease.

#1 Security Deposit

Yes the security deposit.  Landlords want to protect their investment so they require to give up to two months’ worth of rent as a security/cleaning deposit in case you leave the place trashed and they have to pay to fix and/or clean.

Some of these provisions allow for the immediate return of the deposit upon final inspection, some can take a couple of weeks for them to give it back.  Landlords should put all their security deposits in a separate account to make sure that there is money there when you leave the place better than you found it.

Sadly, most of them do not and when you come knocking at their door requesting a refund, they are more apt to find some problem with the place so that they don’t have dig out money that they have already spent.  Before you sign, ask them what they do with the money and how soon you can get it back.

#2 Advance Notice Before leaving

This one usually takes people by surprise and can often create a huge amount of stress especially if the Landlord doesn’t want to deal with subletting.

I have seen many people rent a place in college and then when their contract is up they assume that they are free to go, only to find out that there is an auto renewal provision within the contract and requires the tenant to give 30 days’ notice to the Landlord before moving out.

They are then on the hook for one more payment than they had planned on.  In college one month’s rental payment can be a big deal. You need to know when your contract ends and what your notice obligations are before you sign.

#3 Utilities

Other than the rental payment itself, utilities will probably be your second largest living expense except for maybe food.  Often tenants will rush to sign a lease because the price is so good only to find out they are responsible for not only the internet but also electric, water, sewer, garbage, gas, and cable.

There are a lot of bills associated with living in a place comfortably and you need to know exactly which ones you are responsible for.  These bills can quickly add up to an extra $150-$300 to amount you planned on paying especially in the summer and winter months.

Although I advise everyone to read and make sure they understand everything they sign, I know that many people don’t.  So if you only plan on skimming the lease, look specifically for these three things and you may save yourself a lot of grief and money.

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