Last week, in Finding An Apartment: Understanding Your Apartment Lease (Part I), we went over rent basics, the security deposit, utilities and subleasing; all things that will be included in your lease. Today, we’re looking at a few of the areas many renters seem to forget when signing a rental lease agreement.

Move In

  • Will the unit be cleaned between the previous tenant’s departure and your arrival?
  • What is your responsibility for leftover furniture, garbage, ect. of a previous tenant?
  • When can you get keys? Can you make copies of keys?
  • Can you have the locks changed on the apartment prior to your move in? This is an important question to ask, and if your landlord or property management company doesn’t want to change the locks, you might not want to sign a lease. People make spare copies of keys and a previous tenant or a friend of theirs could easily break into your apartment with an old set of keys. A good landlord or property management company will change the locks for free.

Additional Questions

  • Are you required to purchase renter’s insurance? Our insurance expert on the Equifax Personal Finance Blog (which Ilyce writes for) has done a few posts about the pros and cons of renter’s insurance. Check them out for a better idea about if renter’s insurance is right for you.
  • What appliances and/or furniture, if any, are included in the apartment rental fees?
  • Is parking included in the apartment rental or is there an additional charge?
  • What repairs are covered within the lease? If something happens and repairs need to be made by building management, who needs to be called? Are there any charges for repairs not covered in the lease? If so, what are those costs? How quick is the turn around for something to be fixed that is covered in the lease?

After you’ve asked all of your questions—and possibly made some changes to the lease—make sure you get a newly updated copy of the rental lease agreement. Read it again. Ask more questions.

Do you come across an “Act of God” clause? If you don’t, ask why it isn’t in there (an act of God clause is a legal term referring to events out of human control like floods, high winds ripping off shingles, a tree breaking a window, etc; under Act of God coverage, the renter is not responsible for damage caused by these acts).

There were a few things I was uncomfortable with in my lease. I didn’t sign until several days later when all of my issues had been resolved. I also printed out a document that listed all of the changes to the lease I had requested. I made the management company representative sign it and gave them a copy to keep in my file.

Never rush signing a lease. It’s just not worth it. Remember what we said about bullying? Slow things down and take your time, it’s your neck on the line for thousands of dollars, not theirs.

Make a checklist of questions you want to ask when you go into your lease meeting. It’s harder to forget these important questions if you have them right in front of you.

Have you ever signed a lease without reading it? Did things work out okay?