5 Items Renters Should Know Before Signing a Lease

Thanks to the housing fallout, the last few years have brought more renters than buyers into the rental market. Renting is different than having a mortgage, and before you jump into any leasing contract, you need to ask several questions to ensure your rental agreement meets your housing needs. As both a landlord and a renter, I have experience in both sides of the rental contract and can offer tips to help renters make the lease agreement as pleasing as possible.

Length of the lease

Knowing how long the contract will be is important for an enjoyable renter-landlord relationship. If you need to be in a space for 6 months, don’t sign a contract for 12 months in hopes you can get out of it easily and there will be penalties to pay if you break your contract early. Sometimes, landlords will reduce the monthly rent if you sign a long-term lease so make sure to ask about a discounted rate for long term leases.

Are the Utilities included?

Ask which utilities are included in the rent because it could play a big role in your monthly budget. Many landlords will pay for some or all the utilities but don’t assume that water and sewer is included in your monthly rent. Many times, renters have to pay for all their utility bills so make sure you factor in a couple hundred dollars more into your monthly rent budget.

Pet Friendly?

Not every landlord wants to rent their property to a pet owner because of the potential pet odor and stains that your puppy will leave behind. Confirm that Fluffy is welcome at the rental and prepare to pay a pet deposit. If you lie to a landlord about owning a pet, it’s almost certain they will discover the pet eventually and you will be left without your deposit and an extra cleaning fee.

Smoking or Non?

Quite simply, non-smokers don’t want smokers renting their home. Smoke is difficult to remove, costing money for the landlord to clean and that cleaning fee will be transferred to the renter and say goodbye to your deposit. If you smoke, make sure it’s clear that the landlord gives you the okay as you don’t want to be slapped with a high cleaning fee when you leave.

Interior Decorating

Confirm that you have the landlord’s permission before you paint the walls or plant a few shrubs in the yard. Many homeowners are okay with renters painting walls as long as it’s a neutral color but I still suggest getting the color approved with the landlord before you spend energy painting the walls. If the landlord refuses to let you personalize the house, don’t ignore their wishes, you’ll have to spend money to undo the work when you move.