Posted Nov 5, 2014

5 Questions to Ask Before Signing an Apartment Lease

Many people sign an apartment lease without even reading it—and that’s a mistake! An apartment lease is a legally binding document, and getting stuck in a place you don’t love makes a year seem really, really long. Make sure you’ve found the right place by asking these important questions before you sign on the dotted line:

1. What is Included and What Costs Extra?

Rent is just one cost of living in a rental home. There are other costs that may be associated, including the cost of utilities like electricity, gas, trash and water. Some apartment complexes also charge extra for laundry, parking and even pet rent. Before you accept the price of a place and put your name down on paper, you should understand exactly what your money will be getting you. By spelling out everything you’ll be paying for before you decide on a place, you’ll be able to budget accurately and ensure that you can afford the costs each month.

2. What Can I Do to the Apartment?

You might be excited to decorate a new space once you start renting, but you’ll want to check with your landlord to see what you’re physically allowed to do to a space. Many landlords restrict physical changes to the apartment, such as painting, hanging things on walls and installing shelves. You’ll want to find out what’s okay to do in a space before you move in so you don’t end up forfeiting your security deposit. If not being able to decorate is a deal breaker for you, you’ll want to make sure that you live in a space that will let you.

3. Are Pets Allowed?

Most rental homes have strict rules about what kind of animals can live in them. This means that if you have a pet or are planning on getting one, you should check with your landlord to find out his or her policy on having animals in the building. Some landlords forbid them; some have breed and weight restrictions; and others charge extra fees to have them, so you want to make sure you’re not legally binding yourself to a place that’s going to make you get rid of your dog or cat before you move in.

4. Are There Building Rules?

Nearly every rental building has its set of rules and guidelines. These rules include things like quiet hours, recycling and garbage schedules, garden maintenance and access, and many more. Check with your landlord to see what restrictions will be put on your living space and to determine if you’re comfortable with the guidelines.

5. What Are My Options If I Have to Break My Lease?

Life can throw some unexpected curve balls, and you unfortunately may need to move out of a rental place before you expected. If that happens, you may want to sublet your place so that someone is living in it and paying rent. However, some landlords have restrictions about who can live in an apartment once a lease is signed.

Check with your landlord to make sure someone else can occupy the apartment, and make sure that you are clear on the process of obtaining and renting to a subletter. If you aren’t allowed to sublet, make sure you know the fee for breaking your apartment lease.

Can you think of an important question you wished you’d asked your landlord before you signed a lease? Tell us at Lovely about it in the comments below! Or tweet at us on Twitter!

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5 Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease

Photo Credit: Juli

Niccole Schreck


Niccole is the Senior Brand Manager at Lovely. She has a passion for drinking wine, making things (often with wine corks), and helping renters find a perfect place to live.

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