The Renter’s Guide to Signing a Solid Lease: Part 2

On Monday we gave you EasyRent’s top 10 tips every renter should know before signing a lease. Today, in Part 2 of our Renter’s Guide to Signing a Solid Lease, we’ll share some of the important lessons we’ve learned personally through our years of travel.

My family has rented from large property management corporations and individual homeowners alike. What we’ve found is that no matter who the landlord is, it’s up to YOU to protect yourself as a renter and that means meticulously combing through the details of the lease prior to signing.

lease 2Professional floor cleaning – Check to see if your lease specifies that the floors will be professionally cleaned prior to your move-in date. If not, ask the landlord to add that clause into the document so you can ensure that there won’t be any mysterious odors or stains for you to deal with or pay for.

Define “typical wear and tear” – Most leases will state that “typical wear and tear” is acceptable upon move-out but anything beyond that can result in the landlord’s withholding of your security deposit. If the lease does not spell out what the landlord deems as “typical wear and tear,” request that it be added into the lease. Something like this, “Reasonable wear and tear to include, but not be limited to: 1. Holes in walls for hanging pictures and other decorations, 2. Minor scuff marks on walls that would require touch-up painting only.”

Breaking a lease – Many transient families get very little notice about a relocation. So it’s important to ensure that your lease includes language that protects you in the event that you need to transfer to a new location. Something like this: “In the event Tenant is transferred by his or her employer during the term hereof, Tenant may terminate this lease without penalty upon 60 days notice.”

Walk-through  – When you first see your rental unit, it may still be occupied by another tenant. That’s why we like the lease to state that the landlord is required to do a walk-through of the property with us again prior to moving in so there won’t be any surprises (like damages that occurred during the former tenant’s moving out process) left unaddressed.

Know the by-laws – If you’re living in an area with a homeowner’s or apartment association,  request a copy of the bylaws so you can be sure to stay in compliance.

Outdoor maintenance – If you’re renting a house, find out who will be responsible for the maintenance of the lawn, snow removal and any other regular upkeep. If you’re in charge of mowing the lawn, ask whether a mower will be provided or if you’ll be expected to use your own. Be sure that the agreed upon terms are outlined in the lease.

Know your rights – It’s always important to know your city, state or provincial laws that pertain to renters. We hope you don’t ever have to refer to them but sadly, we know people who have had to lean on those laws to protect their families when landlords tried to illegally evict them.When in doubt, contact a lawyer to review the law and/or lease.

A few more things to things to consider about a potential rental before you sign a lease:

  • Be realistic about what you can and can’t live with in a rental. Sure, it might not seem horrible to not have a dishwasher in the kitchen or to have carpet as old as you are, but that “minor inconvenience” may really start to bother you in a month or two.
  • Be sure to ask if all locks are changed after each tenant moves out. This helps ensure safety and security for you and your family.
  • Take a look at your phone while you are touring a rental to make sure the coverage is good in the area/home. It can be truly inconvenient to never have service while you are at your new home and friends and family try to call and catch up, especially if you don’t plan to shell out the money for a landline!
  • As you check out a possible rental, look around at neighboring yards. Are there other children in the area for your kiddos to play with? Do you see lots of big dogs or dog items that may mean large, loud dogs? Don’t be afraid to catch a neighbor out raking leaves or walking and ask how they like the neighborhood.
  • Check out to make sure that the people living near you are not registered sex offenders. You can never guarantee 100% safety, but you might as well be proactive, especially if you have little ones in your home.

By Emily Shedek and Emily Robertson

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