Are you going to be a first-time renter? There are a handful of thoughts that are running through your mind — like what type of apartment is ideal for your lifestyle, when you should move, or what area you would like to relocate to. It’s a very exciting time for you, but what’s most important is thoroughly reading the lease before you sign it. As you’re reading through your lease for the first time, keep the following five tips in mind before you sign on the dotted line.

  1. Confirm that the terms in the lease align with what you’ve been told by the property manager. What’s written in the lease can be hard to understand since it’s written in legal terms. The property manager can break it down for you in conversational terms so it’s easier to understand. All you have to do is ask!
  2. Be aware of additional fees. Do you have to pay for the first and last month’s rent? Are utilities included with the rent, or are you billed separately? Who pays for the water bill? Who pays for trash collection? Do you need to pay for your lawncare? Is snow removal included? These are all critical questions — and if you’re shopping around for apartments, it’s best to create a spreadsheet that compares additional fees so you can find the most affordable apartment a possible.
  3. There may be specific utility companies you must use. Sometimes apartment complexes only allow for one type of cable company for their tenants. And yes, either that means you sign up with that company or you don’t have cable at all.
  4. Ask about the rules regarding painting the walls or hanging artwork. Landlords will want to make sure you can make your rental as comfortable as possible, so some may allow you to customize your living space. Some complexes may allow you to paint the walls to a color other than white — but only if you paint it back to white before you move out. You should also inquire about ways to hang artwork. Some rental units will not allow you to drill holes in the walls but others might.
  5. Understand lease termination policies. Lease termination policies can vary. Below are a few examples of termination policies you might find:
    • If the tenant would like to terminate their lease early, chances are, there will be a fee. Some places require payment of a flat fee, while others may require you to pay the rent equal to the number of months you are terminating your lease for.
    • Some leases automatically renew. You definitely don’t want to get caught in a situation where you want to move out, but didn’t notify the landlord in time! Make sure you’re aware of the deadline to notify your landlord that you will be moving out.
    • You may have to tell your landlord that you want to renew your lease. Some landlords will assume if you don’t say anything, you intend to move out.