Things to Ask Before Signing a Lease
So you’ve found your ideal house? Nice. Popped in for a viewing? Great. Meets your expectations? Even better.Before signing a lease, here are some of the most important questions to ask your landlord:
Which Rent Payment Methods Do You Accept?
Landlords’ payment terms and accepted modes of payment (e.g. cash, auto-debit, online payments, and check deposits) can vary, so ask which ones they accept before signing a lease to make sure this method is feasible for you.
Also consider asking your landlord if you can set up an auto-debit for your rent payments, which will mean your rent is always paid on-time with zero hassle (and will also help with your credit score). If the landlord only accepts cash, take this as a red flag. It’s also a good idea to ask about their process for documenting rent payments and providing receipts, which are important to have in the event of a dispute.
What Utilities are Included?
Go over the fine print on your agreement and ask your landlord about which utilities are included (like gas and electricity, water, phone line and broadband, along with other essentials bills) and who’s responsible for paying each one.
These monthly bills can add up quickly, so accurately budgeting for them will help you determine whether or not you can afford to live in a particular property. If you’re the one responsible for utilities, ask the landlord if they can connect you to their usual providers to save you some time when moving in.
Which Appliances or Furnishings are Included?
Prices may also vary depending on whether the property you’re renting is furnished or unfurnished, so factor this in before signing a lease. Ask your landlord which (if any) appliances will be included, so you can manage your expectations (and cashflow), and also make sure you know whose responsibility it is to pay for repairs for appliances and furnishings.
While you’re at it, you may also want to ask about their policies regarding redecoration (e.g. painting walls and wall mounting, etc) since these usually vary between one landlord to the other.
What Maintenance Costs am I Responsible For? What’s the Procedure for Submitting a Request for Maintenance or Repairs?
There’s nothing worse than bursting pipes or annoying ceiling leaks, so don’t forget to inquire about how maintenance and repairs are handled. Find out as much as you can about who to contact to make a repair request, or if these can be done online. It’s important to know ahead of time what the procedure will be for addressing these requests, like projected timeframes for completion and how scheduling and meeting with contractors will work.
Essential repairs and general upkeep should be handled by your landlord, but they WON’T cover costs resulting from negligence or damages by the tenant. So, if you’ve tried to flush bones and eggshells down the sink and expect the landlord to take care of the plumbing… Think again!
Before signing a lease, ask your landlord about how they deal with late fees, and what their process is for handling delayed rent payments during extreme circumstances (like the current global health crisis).
Some states have specific rules governing the types of fees landlords are allowed to charge, so check these if you’re uncertain, but generally, these don’t indicate a dollar figure, so you’ll have to decide if the fees are reasonable. A landlord who is aloof or not structured with payments should be seen as cause for concern.
Are Pets Allowed? Are there any Special Conditions or Fees I Should be Aware Of?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. If your lease says no pets and you sneak one in anyway, you’re in violation of your lease agreement and can be evicted by your landlord.
If your landlord does allow pets, usually they’ll ask for a higher deposit than they would for human occupants alone, but they may also charge additional fees, or require that you pay for things like carpet deep-cleaning and an anti-flea treatment when moving out. Asking ahead of time before signing a lease will help you factor these things into your costs.
Are Parking Permits Required, and Who Provides These?
If you live in an urban area, ask your landlord whether or not you’ll need a parking permit, and where you’d need to go to get this sorted out. If you have more than 1 vehicle, ask your landlord if there’s a maximum number of parking permits that you can apply for.
What’s their Overnight Guest Policy?
Some leases may not clearly define the point at which a guest becomes viewed as a resident in your home, so ask your landlord how long guests are permitted to stay to avoid running into trouble on this front.
What are their Requirements & Fees to Break Your Lease?
Unexpected things (whether personal, professional, etc) can happen in life, and sometimes this can affect your rental home, too. Before signing a lease, sk your landlord what their protocol is when it comes to early lease breaks, and if you will be subjected to additional fees.
In some instances, experienced landlords opt to include tenancy breaks in their rental agreements. Check with your landlord if they can include this clause, and ask how much notice you need to give before the move-out (which usually ranges anywhere from 1-3 months). Either way, be sure to ask for details and get written consent if you do decide to terminate your contract early.
Landlord Entry Notice?
If your landlord or property manager needs to gain access to the property during your tenancy, how long of a notice period is required?
How Does the Renewal Process Work, and Could I go Month-to-Month?
If you’re thinking long-term, ask your landlord how they deal with renewal processes. Do they offer flexible options, like switching to a month-to-month contract? Are there any other renewal costs involved?
Whether it’s your first big move or if you’ve been renting for years, getting as much information as you can about the property before signing a lease is essential. Terminologies and clauses may differ from one landlord to another, so make sure you spend ample time reading the fine print.
These are just some of the questions we recommend tenants to ask when signing a rental agreement, but if you’ve got any further tips or suggestions, let us know!