8 Questions To Ask Before Signing a Lease

by Ryan Vance
DIY Landscaping for Less photo

You may think you’ve found the perfect place to live, but don’t sign that lease before asking these questions. A question or two now could avoid trouble later.

After thoroughly searching the city, looking at different homes and apartments, when you eventually find a place you love and would be willing to reside, you will be eager to pick up the pen and commit yourself.

It is, however, advisable that you ask the following questions before you sign a home lease in order to avoid making a mistake that may be difficult to reverse.

1. Are Utilities Included?

Will you be responsible for utilities? It depends. Some leases include all utilities, and others include some or none at all. Make sure you know the utilities that would be your responsibility so you can estimate the actual cost of living in the apartment.

2. Is Renter’s Insurance Required?

Although renter’s insurance is good, it costs money and you may not want to buy it. According to a poll conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, 40% of the homes surveyed mandated renter’s insurance. Some landlords require it. Others do not.

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3. Is There a Guest Policy?

Particularly in urban areas, guest policies are being found in more leases. These policies specify whether you can have roommates, especially if they pay you to stay. If you intend on having a roommate, be sure to ask about the guest policy.

4. Who Pays for Home Improvements?

As a renter, you probably won’t want to spend much to improve your leased home, but there are times when a little home improvement would be nice. Find out who is responsible for paying for any improvements. And, what’s the difference between a maintenance item/repair and an improvement.

5. What Are the Penalties for Late Rent?

Several landlords impose a penalty if you pay your rent late. It is important to know what those penalties are and when they would be applied.

6. How Much Is the Security Deposit and What Would You Have to Do to Get It Back?

Each landlord has their own policy on damage deposits and their own thoughts about giving it back to tenants when they leave. Most security deposit disputes are of the “he said, she said” type. Therefore, get as much detail as possible put into your lease.

7. What Is the Maintenance Policy?

You’ll want to know who to call if the plumbing or heating doesn’t work. Do you call the landlord or a property manager? And, how quickly can you expect them to fix the problem?

In some cases, the landlord might be willing to credit any repairs you do against your rent. Get as much detail as you can into the lease.

8. Does the Lease Have an Out Clause?

An out clause in a lease is the provision that allows a tenant to terminate the lease before its end date. If a lease does not contain an out clause, you could be required to pay for the whole term even if you move out early and the landlord could rent it to another person.

Reviewed April 2023

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