Posted Aug 29, 2014

10 Things To Do Before Signing a Lease

Lovely Rental Market Report Q2 2014 (1)

Having a place to call home can be one of life’s greatest comforts and pleasures, but finding that perfect pad isn’t always easy! Between hunting down available spots, finding a place that meets your wants and needs, getting approved to rent an apartment and filling out the paperwork, needless to say, the process can be stressful. One of the most important parts of renting a home is signing a lease; however, there are some important steps to take before you do. If you’re thinking of finding a new home soon, follow these 10 helpful tips before signing a lease, to make sure you end up in a living situation that is happy, healthy and stress-free!

1. View the apartment

This one seems straightforward since you’ll obviously want to see what you’re renting before you sign a lease, but sometimes buildings or management companies try to rent apartments that are occupied or not ready yet via photo. But, to ensure that you’re not being scammed, it’s important for you to actually see the apartment that you’re going to live in for at least the next year. Not only will this allow you to verify that it’s real, it will also ensure that you like the feel of the space and can imagine yourself living there.

READ MORE: Tips for Avoiding a Rental Scam

2. Ask questions

There are lots of questions that you’ll want to ask before you sign any lease. These questions include things such as:

  • Can I paint?
  • What is the pet policy?
  • Can I sublet my apartment?

Think about what things matter to you in a home and what might make your living situation more complicated than the standard one. You’ll want to know all the answers outright before you make anything official. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post featuring the questions you must ask a prospective landlord before giving them your autograph.

3. Research your landlord

Before you enter into a binding, legal agreement with someone, you’re going to want to do your research about him or her. Make sure that he or she has a good, savory reputation to ensure that you’re not going to encounter any trouble down the road. You can use websites like Yelp or simply knock on the door of your future neighbors to get opinions first hand.

4. Examine for damage

Any damage your landlord finds in your apartment after you move out will be your responsibility. So, before you sign a lease and start moving in, ensure that you have inspected the apartment for any damage and reported it to your management company or property owner. Any damage you encounter prior to moving in should be documented in writing (if possible, try to take pictures, too!). This way you won’t be charged for any repairs that shouldn’t be your responsibility when you leave.

5. Meet the neighbors

A nice apartment is great, but it’s not enough if the people that live around it (or you) are not too friendly. Try to meet some of the neighbors before you sign a lease on a place. Get an idea of who you’ll be spending your time around and make sure that you like the energy of the community. Once you sign your lease and move in, check out websites like Nextdoor to help you meet members of your community quickly and easily.

6. Read the lease

Make sure you read the lease, and don’t just glance over it. Read every single word. This might sound like a no brainer, but renters are too often in sticky situations with a landlord that could have been avoided if they knew exactly what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Many of the important details or caveats are located in the fine print, so you want to be sure you don’t miss something that you actually don’t want to agree to legally.

7. Write in the details

If there’s something missing or vague in your lease, ask for an updated version with more specific details. Grey area in legal agreements can result in complicated situations if something ever goes wrong. Thus, by spelling everything you want and need out in writing, you avoid any troubles later should there be a problem.

8. Get your finances in order

When you sign a lease, you not only sign a piece of paper, but you also pay a large sum of money – usually at least one month of rent upfront, for a security deposit. Because you’re going to need to have that money on hand, you’re going to want to save up and make sure your finances are in order before you start the process of signing.

9. Gather your paperwork

Often, when you sign a lease on an apartment, you need more paperwork than just the lease itself. You’ll typically need a copy of your driver’s license, your rental history, references, a completed application and more. Ask your landlord what he’ll need along with your lease, and be sure to have it all on-hand so you don’t have to delay signing when you finally spot your dream rental.

10. Request copies

Before you go to sign a lease, request that there be extra copies made so that you and anyone else on the lease can keep a copy. If something ever goes wrong in a renting situation, it can often be hard to get your hands on legal paperwork if you don’t already have it – especially if you’re in dispute with the person that does. Leave with a copy of the lease once both parties have signed.

If you’re getting ready to search for a home and sign a new lease, look no further than Lovely! Tell us about your experience on Facebook or Twitter – we’d love to hear from you!

Elizabeth Pullman


Elizabeth oversees Marketing at Lovely. It is her goal to make sure every single person nationwide knows about Lovely and Lovely Pro!

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