A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
Whether you’re getting ready to move to a new place or just contemplating it for the distant future, listen up!
Imagine: You take a tour of your dream apartment. Your landlord is a kind, bumbling man who hands you a standard, generic lease, so you’re pretty sure that he’s not trying to pull anything. Spurred on by the rush to complete the deal, you sign. Later, you’re confronted with charges that the landlord never mentioned. The lease also contains mistakes–he told you that he would pay for heat and water, but the generic lease says that the onus is on you. Your landlord might seem like a good guy, but, if you’ve already signed, he has the right to charge you for those utilities.
Consider this a cheat sheet to help you understand your lease, look for tricks in all the right places, and save thousands of dollars in potential ruination.
1. Check The Big Three
Make sure the dates of the lease, your rent amount, and your security deposit amount are all correct. Mistakes in these areas are common and can cause you big financial headaches if you sign without catching them.
2. Verify The Penalties For Early Termination
Will you forfeit your security deposit? Will you be liable for rent for the months remaining on the lease? Even if you plan to stay for the full lease term, try to negotiate favorable early termination terms before you sign. You never know what the future holds, so it’s best to lower your liability.
3. Know When And How You Will Get Your Security Deposit Back
Some landlords are notorious for keeping this deposit, citing damage when it’s just normal wear and tear. Make sure your lease specifies the conditions under which you will get your deposit back.
4. Be Aware Of The Rent Increase Policy
You don’t want a lease that allows a landlord to change your rent at any time and to any amount. A greedy landlord can quickly push you beyond what you can afford.
5. Inspect The Unit Fully (With Landlord In Tow)
Note all necessary repairs and existing damage. Have everything fixed or noted on your lease before you sign, to make sure that you don’t get stuck with the bill.
6. Understand All Other Charges
There are many fees you might face, including pet fees, late payment fees, yard care dues, community trash removal, or fees for overnight guests. Get all fees in writing and make sure you know exactly what you’ll have to pay and when.
A great deal on an apartment can be ruined if you end up paying a lot of fees or facing huge rent increases. Taking some simple step to protect yourself from mistakes and misunderstandings will ensure that you enjoy your new apartment to the fullest.
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