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5 Things to Look for When Signing a Lease

Unsigned Pelham Rental Agreement ContractAs a Pelham tenant, you should not make the mistake of signing a lease without reading it thoroughly. Since no two leases are exactly alike, this can become a big problem as some landlords may also put things in the lease that you would not agree to. A lease is a binding legal contract, so unless a clause violates state law, you could end up with responsibility for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. Before signing anything, you should read the lease entirely and thoroughly. You should also keep an eye out for these particular items in the lease.

1. Documentation of Property Condition

Make sure your landlord has a system to document the property’s condition before signing a lease for your new home. It would be very disadvantageous for you not to have some way to document the property’s condition before you move in. Protect yourself by asking about your landlord’s documentation process and immediately report any existing damage before you move in.

2. Termination Policy and Fees

Some leases are renewable on a month-to-month basis, although most cover a specific time period. Regardless of which approach your lease uses, you must understand the policy on ending or canceling the lease and what fees you might incur. Some leases require advance notice if you decide to leave, usually 30-60 days. But others can stipulate serious penalties for terminating a lease. For example, if you sign a 12-month lease but then you need to move out after six months, you might be required to pay a cancellation fee, the remaining rent on the contract, or both. You may also forfeit some or all of your security deposit. Since all leases are different, you have to read these policies carefully and clarify anything before you sign.

3. Roommates and Subletting

Some renters assume that when they rent a home, they can sublet all or part of it to others. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. If you plan to sublet your home during an extended absence or have a roommate to share the rent with, you have to carefully check if your lease allows this. The last thing you want is to be charged for illegally subletting your place. You could get evicted or held financially responsible for damages to the residence during your illegal tenant’s stay.

4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees

If you are bringing a pet into your new home, check your lease first for your landlord’s pet policy. Tenants who hide a pet from a landlord that does not allow them on the property usually get caught. Anticipate that there will be additional fees or a deposit if your pets are to stay with you. You should then check if your deposit is refundable if your pet does not cause any damages to the property. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. Landlords have to allow the animal on the property without additional fees. If you are in a similar situation, you have to inform your landlord to avoid future problems.

5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities

As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. In the usual leases, the landlord will take care of certain services, leaving the others for you to do. Some tenant-assigned tasks usually include lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. Some landlords would choose to provide these services and have the property cleaned professionally before a new tenant moves in. Others give the responsibility of cleaning to the tenants, allowing them to hire a professional cleaning company to do the job. Regardless of your arrangement, you should know your responsibilities and be comfortable with them before you sign the lease.

You really have to read your lease carefully. If there is anything you do not understand, clarify it with your landlord. There may be parts of your lease that are negotiable, so if there are things you are not comfortable with, you can ask your landlord for revisions. Since you are going to be living with the lease terms, it would be best to avoid running into any surprises later on.


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