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Ask these 7 questions before signing that lease contract

A lease agreement between a tenant and landlord entails binding legal obligations for both parties. Signing on that dotted line ultimately means that you agreed to comply with all the stated provisions. And once you’ve agreed, there’s no turning back or reneging on the signed agreement.

So, before everything is officially set in writing, you should make sure that you fully understand what you’re getting into. Whether or not it’s your first time renting a house or an apartment, these seven questions can help clarify your concerns.

1. What are the specific requirements for renting the property?

Of course, there are certain things required of you once you take residence on a landlord’s property. You need to know the answer to this to find out if these requirements will cause some difficulty for you.

For instance, a number of landlords will only accept renters who have a certain earning capacity. Some may even require that you earn three times the monthly rent.

Moreover, if the tenant application involves a hard inquiry into credit history, it may hurt your overall credit score if the assessment doesn’t go as intended.

Some landlords will also require non-refundable deposits, although this requirement varies from state to state. Check if the place you’re about to rent prohibits or allows non-refundable deposits.

2. Are certain appliances and furnishings included in the lease?

Tenants have a range of must-have appliances. It could be a washing machine, a flat-screen TV, or a spacious bed.

Whatever the essentials are for you, double-check if most of these are included in your lease. Knowing which appliances and furnishings are available can avoid the possibility of owning two of the same items simultaneously and blowing your budget.

Clarify with the landlord if any of the items in the property belong to them, the previous owner, or a staging company. Additionally, if there are any appliances included in the lease, make sure to ask if these are in good working condition. If not, you can request the landlord for repairs of the problematic ones.

3. When will the unit be available for occupancy?

This is a basic question that is often overlooked, especially when renters get overly excited about moving into a new home or apartment. You may have verbally agreed with the landlord to move in at a particular date, but the lease contract could state otherwise.

In many instances, this is a minor error that can be easily rectified. In rare situations, however, this error can evolve into major disagreements that may compromise the entire agreement. Make sure to double-check that your preferred move-in date is explicitly stated in the contract.

4. What utilities do I need to pay for?

Some landlords may prefer to include water bills and electricity costs in the monthly rent. Others may opt to let you shoulder utility costs on top of the monthly rent.

Ask the landlord about the usual arrangement they had with previous tenants. If the terms regarding utilities don’t appeal to you, you can negotiate for more amenable terms with the landlord. Otherwise, you may be better off moving on to other properties.

5. Have the locks been replaced since the last tenant moved out?

If the landlord hasn’t changed the locks since the last tenant left, you can request new locks for better security.

Some landlords forget to do this or simply interchange the locks among multiple rental properties that they own. This can pose a security risk if previous tenants still have the old keys to the house or apartment.

6. What is the protocol for doing repair and maintenance work?

Over time, issues like water leaks or faulty wiring will begin to appear in any home or apartment. In most cases, landlords are legally obligated to cover the costs of necessary repairs to the property. So, make sure to check the lease contract for provisions regarding repairs and maintenance. Don’t wait until you’ve already moved in and these problems arise for you to ask this question. Make an inquiry on how you can file repair and maintenance requests during the course of your stay.

7. Is there an option for contract renewal?

What if you decide that you want to live in this rental for a longer period? Asking about the contract renewal option is a good idea in this situation.

Inform the landlord that you’d like to have the option to renew in case there is no provision that expressly stipulates that. You can explore some options for this renewed lease and come to an agreement on whether it should be for another year or on a month-to-month basis.

Need more tips on examining lease contracts? Or are you in need of help in searching for a good house or apartment for rent? Our team at Sundance Property Management can assist you and address any rental concerns you may have. Get in touch with our team by calling 608.513.3933 or sending an email to info(at)sdpmi(dotted)com. You may also go directly to our website to inquire by clicking here.

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