At some point in your life, you will probably find yourself signing a lease to rent a home or apartment. A renter’s lease agreement is a binding contract that outlines the conditions for tenancy at a rental property. You will make this formal agreement with the landlord or property management company from which you are renting.
Lease signing can take place in person with your landlord or property manager, or completed online with the help of electronic signatures. If you sign the lease with your landlord present, they should review all of the important terms with you. However, if you sign your lease online, it is up to you to read through the entire document and understand everything to which you are agreeing.
To help you get through the lease signing process without any surprises down the road, here are some common lease terms and conditions to which you should pay attention.
Rent Due Date and Grace Period
The rent due date specifies the day of the month that your rent payment is due to your landlord or property manager. Some states allow a grace period, which is a defined amount of time a tenant has to pay rent before the landlord can charge a late fee or post a “pay rent or quit” notice on your door. While landlords cannot charge a late fee during the grace period, they can consider the rent late if paid any amount of time after the due date, which can work against you in your future renter applications.
Keep an eye out for language about any requirements to notify your landlord if you will be out of town for an extended period of time. Some landlords may require you to give them notice if you will be out of town for as little as three days. This condition is important to remember in case of a situation that requires your landlord to access your property or get a hold of you for an emergency.
Are there seasonal or annual inspections of the property? These might include an annual appliance service or a seasonal maintenance visit. It’s a good idea to understand when your landlord or property manager will be stopping by, and the lease will usually outline when to expect these normal management visits.
Some property managers and landlords require tenants to obtain renters insurance as a condition of the lease agreement. Failing to obtain or provide proof of renters insurance can be considered a lease violation. If you don’t have renters insurance already, or even if your landlord doesn’t require renters insurance as a condition in the lease, it is still something you should strongly consider.
Read through the lease to check for information about having guests stay overnight at the property. Some lease agreements on the stricter side won’t allow tenants to have a guest stay for more than a couple nights in a row. This can prove to be a challenge for people in relationships or renters who frequently have guests visiting from out of town. If this condition won’t work for your lifestyle, you might want to consider a different property.
It is fairly common for a lease agreement to prohibit decorating such as painting, hanging anything that requires nails in the walls, changing light fixtures, or adding curtains. This is usually to prevent anything that can be potentially damaging to the property or its fixtures and appliances. Make sure you understand these terms when signing your lease to avoid losing money from your security deposit.
Storing Items on Your Patio
Lease agreements may have rules about what tenants are allowed to store on a patio, balcony, or other outdoor space of a property. Your landlord may have regulations on what type of furniture can be stored outside, what type of grill you are allowed to have (if any), or if you are allowed to hang up decor such as lights or signage.
Look for information about any scheduled rent increases. More and more often, property managers are building small incremental rent increases directly into lease agreements. If it’s in the lease agreement but you didn’t read the details, you might be shocked when your rent suddenly goes up $50/month.
You’re not allowed to have pets of your own at your rental property, but your friend can bring their dog for a visit no problem…right? Having visiting pets at your home may still put you in hot water with management if this was covered in your lease agreement. Make sure you understand the pet policy and the consequences of having a pet in your place.
If your rental property includes outdoor space, be sure to check the lease to find out who is responsible for landscaping and what is considered to be acceptable landscaping if the tenant is responsible. Some leases may require you to purchase or own certain equipment such as a lawn mower, rake, or weed wacker.
It’s important for both the tenant and landlord to be on the same page when it comes to lease terms. Taking the time to read and understand your lease before signing a legally binding agreement will save you and your landlord a headache down the road.