Many first-time renters are a bit “in the dark” about where to start when they start looking for a rental. They are not quite sure what to look for in the lease contract and the terminology can be confusing, even for college-educated individuals. The amount of legalese that is used on the lease contracts is often superfluous.
6 Items All Renters Should Check on Their Lease
The following 6 items should give you an idea of what you should check on when analyzing a lease so that you won’t come across any surprises when moving into a rental property.
1. Property liability clause – One of the most important aspects of a lease is a number of legal liability items that renters may have to the landlord and the property. When you rent a property that belongs to someone else, you are promising to exercise a certain amount of care and responsibility toward the upkeep, even if you are not required to make repairs. Read the liability clause carefully regarding how much you may be required to pay if there is damage to the property due to your negligence. If a landlord decided to sue you for damages, they would be required to prove neglect under legal terms and show that you ignored something that should have been fixed to avoid damage. The burden of proof is on them, but you should carefully document your actions and take pictures of your property so that you can show this if you are challenged. Keep in mind also that landlords may not enforce any liability or legal clauses that your state of residence does not allow them to do. Know the housing and rental laws in your state to protect yourself from a bad lease agreement.
2. Rental amount and terms – Make sure and look at the amount of the monthly rent, in addition to the deposit that you will have to pay upfront and any other fees that are charged at the beginning of the lease term. Also look at the length of time that the lease covers. If you try to get out of the lease earlier than the terms outlined in the agreement, you may have to pay additional fees and you may not get your deposit back. Everything goes back to the contract that you sign, so make sure you understand it.
3. Due dates for rent and fees – Know the due dates for rent and any other applicable fees if you are late on payments. Some landlords charge an additional $5-10 per day for late payments.
4. Prognosticated future increases – Will your lease stay the same if you stay beyond the terms of the lease or will your rent go up in the future? Some of this is dependent on the current housing market, especially if you are renting a house. Landlords tend to charge what the market will bear minus any expenses they are out due to ongoing repairs or other factors. Make sure you are getting a good deal by consulting with a local real estate agent in Los Angeles. Fill out our simple form to learn more.
5. Pets – Most landlords or property management companies will stipulate whether or not you can have pets in your rental house or apartment. If you have one or plan on getting one, make sure to look at what the lease says about pets. They may increase your monthly rent or increase the amount of your deposit.
6. Fine print – You may have heard the phrase, “read the fine print.” Never is this more important than when signing a lease agreement for a rental. The fine print can include anything from a number of extra fees that will be charged in the event of damage or early termination, as well as the general responsibilities of the renter. There may also be information on how to get your deposit back or a disclaimer stating that your deposit will not be returned if you are late on your rent or cause damage to the property.