Posted June 17, 2011

1. Read everything on the lease; even if you think you know what it says. Many people assume that all leases are standard, but itís better to err on the side of caution. Read everything and note down things you think might be strange. Sometimes you might find that there are unacceptable clauses, extra payments you shouldnít need to pay, and other strange ways the lease might try to separate you from happiness. Donít sign anything you havenít fully read and understood.

2.† Make sure the dates, rental rates, and expectations are agreeable. You donít want to find out that your lease is longer or shorter than you expected, or that you have to pay the first and last monthís rent upfront, along with a security deposit. Some might exclude your security deposit from being returned due to technicalities. Know what to expect.

3. Donít rush the lease. Sometimes youíll find a home that seems perfect, and think it might be better to fork over the money and sign the lease immediately. Sometimes this can be a good idea if there are many people looking at the apartment, but it also makes room for error. You will be living in the house for at least a year, so make sure you really want it and have the time to go over the lease thoroughly before signing it.

4. Add amendments as needed, and negotiate with the landowner. Some people believe that whatís written on the lease is written in stone. Itís not, and many landlords are welcome to the idea of negotiating rental rates or terms. If you happen to be a skilled painter or handyman, consider offering your services for a break on the rent. You might find that your landlord will appreciate your gusto to repair the home, and will be happy to keep you as a tenant.

5. Keep a copy of the signed lease. This step is often overlooked, and can lead to trouble later on. If you think something is wrong with the way the landlord or manager is running his homes, check the lease. More often than not, you will find that every issue is well addressed, and with that knowledge you will have power to stop certain actions. If your landlord decides to show the apartment without telling you, and surprises you as youíre trying to fall asleep, bring up the lease and explain that you need at least a 24 hour notice. Having a physical copy of the signed lease can really help you out.

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