Before You Sign a Lease, Ask These Important Questions First

After what probably feels like months of looking for a new place to live, you are most likely thrilled when you finally find The One. It’s close to work, it’s in an area of town that you love, and it will serve as a wonderful home for you and your family. The fact that you have actually found a place you love and can afford can be truly exciting. But before your excitement takes over and you sign a rental lease, be sure to ask these important questions first!

When is the rent due?

This is one of the most important questions you should ask before signing a lease. Rent is generally due on the first of each month. However, many landlords give you a few days grace, allowing it to be paid a few days later, such as on the third or fifth of each month. While some property managers are laid back about late payments, some are very strict – charging you late fees or even evicting you if it happens more than once. Late fees can be awful, and an eviction is even worse, so be sure to find out the exact date the rent is due and be sure it is stated on your lease agreement.

How long is the lease?

You’ll find that most rental leases run for 12 months then expire. At this point, you are required to either sign a new lease or move out. But it is important to know that there is a wide variety of leases with differing lengths of time required. This is why you should ask when your lease expires before ever signing it. Along with this question, you should also find out if the lease will automatically renew or convert to a month-by-month tenancy. Most landlords or property managers will contact you prior to your lease ending in order to find out what your intentions are, but it is best to know how long your lease lasts before ever moving in so you understand your living circumstances well.

How do I document previous property damage?

Before you move into your rental property, your landlord will most likely be handling any damages that the previous tenant(s) inflicted upon the space – stained carpets, scarred or dirty walls, etc. But some damages to the property may be overlooked. When the day comes for you to move out, you don’t want to be held responsible for damages you didn’t cause. No way! This is why it is important to document any problems before moving in. There are several things you should check:

  • Functionality of electrical outlets
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Heating and air-conditioning systems

If you find any problems, be sure they are included in the lease agreement before signing it.

Is anything included?

When you rent a house or apartment, you expect to pay a monthly fee to live there. But it is unwise to assume that anything else is included in the rent. Trash pickup and parking, for instance, may have been included in the rent at your previous location, but that doesn’t mean they will be at your new home. So ask your landlord about what – if anything – is included prior to signing the lease.

Is there an eviction policy?

This question may make you feel as though you are labeling yourself a troublemaker, but it is actually a common and worthwhile thing to ask. When renting, it is important you and your landlord are on the same page. This eliminates any miscommunications or negative feelings toward one another. If your landlord prohibits anything specific – pets, loud parties, smoking inside or out, etc. – it is important to be aware of these things so you don’t get evicted because you broke certain rules.

Can I make improvements?

When you move to a new place, there are going to be certain things you just don’t like. For example, you may hate the faucets in the bathroom sink or wish to paint one of the bedrooms a different color. When owning a home, you have the privilege of making whatever improvements you want. But when renting, the ball isn’t totally in your court. Before moving in, it’s a good idea to ask your landlord if you are allowed to make changes to the property and if they are willing to pay for them. While some landlords may welcome the offer, some will be much more hesitant and say no. Either way, it is important to know their answer ahead of time and to have it documented in the lease.

Do you know of other important questions one should ask before signing on the dotted line? Help out your fellow movers and state them in the comments sections!