Moving into a new home or apartment is an exciting time for most, once you have decided on your new home that you want to live in and gone through the process of looking at the new home and getting a feel for it. You now have to begin the process of signing a lease so that you have all the important information regarding your rental agreement in writing so that if anything comes up that you need to deal with legally then you have everything in writing.

We want to cover some of the key things all tenants should do before signing a lease, because this is a legal document and you want to make sure that you have everything in order from the very beginning. Firstly let’s define what exactly signing a lease means for you as the tenant.

A lease is a contract between a landlord and a tenant. It defines the requirements for the tenant to rent the apartment and acknowledges the landlords responsibilities for keeping the apartment in a livable condition. Before you sign a lease agreement for an apartment, consider some essential questions. Let’s dive straight into these questions and all of the important things you should do and be aware of before signing a lease for your new home or apartment.

Signing A Lease

It Is A Contract

When you sign a lease you are committing to stay in the home for a fixed amount of time and you will not be able to terminate your lease any time you want. A lease gives the landlord peace of mind that they are going to have you as a tenant for the entirety of the lease term and that means that they will continue to get rental income from you until your lease term is finished.

So knowing this from the start is good. It becomes very difficult to end your lease agreement prematurely and trying to do so could cause a lot of headache and frustration for you and your landlord as well as be quite expensive if you have to bring on the help of a legal team to assist you in ending your lease agreement early.

Check All Damages Before You Move In And Sign A Lease

Not every home will be in perfect condition when you move in so what you want to do is go through the home or apartment thoroughly before you decide to move in. While doing so, you should make sure that you note all pre-existing damages that the apartment may have. This could be cracks in the wall, a counter top that is damaged and so on. 

These pre-existing damages need to be listed in the lease agreement so you are not held liable for these damages when it comes time to move out at the time when your lease agreement ends. Not doing this and making sure all existing damages are listed in your lease can result in you having deductions taken off your security deposit or your security deposit being withheld from you so before signing a lease make sure that all damages are listed in there so that you are not held accountable for them.

Getting Permission For Any Customization To The Property

You have to live in the home for the entire duration of your lease term so having an environment which you are happy with is very important. This means that you might want to do some home improvement renovations to the home so that it looks and feels the way you want.

Signing A Lease

Now you have to absolutely make sure that your landlord is okay with you making these renovations to the property unit otherwise you might find yourself in deep water. Let’s say for example that you want to paint your bedroom walls a different color to what is currently in the bedroom or you want to change some of the light fixtures so that you can get some better lighting in the home.

You must absolutely make sure before signing a lease that it is written that you have permission from the landlord to make these changes to the property unit and you have both agreed on and signed off in the lease on the terms and conditions of these new changes. If you fail to inform your landlord of these changes that you want to make and it is not clearly written in your lease agreement and you go ahead and make these changes anyway, this may be considered by your landlord as damages to the property and you will be held liable to pay for your landlord to reverse all the changes that you made. This could be quite an expense to you and you don’t want this to happen. You may even find yourself being served an eviction notice because of the changes that you made to the unit, which is now considered damages to the property.

You Are Allowed To Negotiate The Terms Of Your Lease

When a landlord takes on new tenants in their rental property, they firstly want to make sure that they are getting the tenants that will best suit their home, but secondly they want to ensure that all their current and future tenants are happy and comfortable in the home or apartment so that they don’t have to complain about anything in the home and that they potentially renew their lease agreement.

So, as a tenant you are allowed to negotiate the terms before signing a lease. Landlords are most of the time more than happy to negotiate some of the aspects of the lease so that you as the tenant have the best possible experience while you are occupying the home. If your landlord is open to it, you may want to negotiate the terms of the hours that you are allowed to play music. You could negotiate a slightly better monthly rent or have some security in the lease terms in the situation that you may pay your monthly rent late. If you miss a rent payment you may want to ask that you have two weeks to make the payment before any late rent fees are applied to your next rent payment. These are just examples but should give you a clear understanding on some of the aspects that you could possibly negotiate before signing a lease.

Understand What Pets Are Allowed

You may have a pet that you want to bring with you to keep you company in your new home. It is absolutely essential that before you move into your new home or apartment, you make sure that the type of pet that you own is in fact allowed to stay with you. This will all depend on the landlord and every situation will be different. Some landlords may allow you to have for example a small pet that is kept in a cage like a hamster, but they will not allow any free roaming pets like cats or dogs.

Signing A Lease

So before you go ahead with signing a lease you will want to make sure that you understand all the pet policies in your lease agreement. The pet policy may or may not be open to negotiation, it all depends on your landlord, but what we do know is that if you try and move your pet in with you and in your lease agreement it clearly states that no pets are allowed you most definitely will run into major problems. 

All pets will act different, but depending on what type of furniture and decor the home has, your pet could cause significant damage to these items which you will be held accountable to pay for and if your landlord finds out about your pet when it states in the lease that pets are prohibited you may be liable to receive quite a substantial fine from your landlord. You may even be issued with an eviction notice. So make sure you understand all the pet policies before signing a lease.

Your Lease May Include Automatic Renewals

As a tenant you will want to have the peace of mind that you will have a roof over your head for as long as you need and will not be forced to leave your current home if you don’t intend to leave. Some lease agreements will state that your lease will be automatically renewed if you choose to stay in the home for another few months.

This is perfect for tenants that want to stay in one specific home for a period of time with the option of being able to renew their lease automatically at the end of their lease term if they choose to do so. This helps tenants plan ahead and can live comfortably knowing that they will not be forced to find a new home at the end of their lease term.

If you want the option to have your lease automatically renewed at the end of its term then you will need to make sure that this is included before signing a lease

It’s Only Set In Stone If It Is In Writing

You may have more flexibility when it comes to your lease agreement terms than you think. Reading through your lease agreement before signing it and moving in is a must. So, if something is not included in your lease as a term then you will have some flexibility when it comes to what you can and cannot do in your brand new home or apartment.

Your landlord may include a thorough list of terms within your lease but on the other hand some landlords are far more laid back in their lease agreements, giving you the option to make renovations if you so choose to. If in your lease you find that it states nothing about pets not being allowed in the home then you can take that as confirmation that you four-legged friend will be allowed to stay with you in the home.

You have to remember that everything you need to comply with needs to be in writing and signed for it to be official and legal terms of a lease/contract. Anything that is left out you cannot be held liable for and that is why it is up to your landlord to be as thorough as possible when writing the lease so that he or she keeps all his terms complied with by the tenants of the home.

If you are unsure of everything that is included in your lease then it is always advised to seek out professional legal advice before you sign any documents, this is a long term contract after all and you want to make sure that you are not going to run into any problems during the duration of your stay.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. 

Now you should have a pretty good understanding of some of the most important aspects of signing a new lease. Before signing a lease it is always advised to read through as many articles on the subject as possible and we hope that this article was a helpful and good source of information for you. Equipping yourself with all the necessary knowledge on lease/rental agreements before you make the decision to sign a lease will help you in the long term and you will avoid sticky situations later down the road.

We hope that all your questions regarding signing a lease were answered, if you have any further questions or concerns then feel free to get in contact with us. With many years of experience in the field we would be more than happy to help you out with any questions that you might have. We aim to get back to everyone as soon as possible. You can also browse or search the rest of our website if you are looking for any other information.