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5 Things to Look for When Signing a Lease

Unsigned Nelson County Rental Agreement ContractSigning a lease without reading it thoroughly is one of the biggest mistakes any Nelson County tenant can make. This can turn into a huge problem since no two leases are exactly alike, and some landlords may put things in the lease that you probably wouldn’t agree to. Since the lease is a binding legal contract, unless the specific clause violates state law, you could end up having responsibility for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. Read the lease from top to bottom before signing anything. And, as you go through the lease, watch out for these things in particular.

1. Documentation of Property Condition

Before signing a lease, you must determine if your landlord has a system for documenting the property’s condition. This is very important because if you don’t document the property’s condition in some way before moving in, you could pay the price. Be sure to inquire about your landlord’s documentation process and report existing damage that you see before you move in.

2. Termination Policy and Fees

There are leases that can be renewed on a month-to-month basis but most cover a specific time period. Whichever approach your lease uses, you have to understand the policy regarding ending or canceling the lease as well as the fees involved. Some leases may require advance notice, often 30-60 days, before you leave the property. But others impose serious penalties for lease termination. For instance, after signing a 12-month lease you find out you need to move 6 months into the contract, your lease may require you to pay a cancellation fee, the remaining rent on the contract, or both. You may also forfeit some or all of your security deposit. As all leases are different, you have to know these policies carefully and raise any concerns before you sign.

3. Roommates and Subletting

Renting a home does not give you the right to sublet all or part of the home to other people. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. If you plan on subletting your home during a long absence or get a roommate to share with the rent, you have to carefully check if your lease allows that arrangement. You would not want to be caught illegally subletting your place –which can get you evicted or be financially responsible for damages your illegal tenant caused while staying in the residence.

4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees

If the home you are looking for will also be a place for your beloved pet, it is best to check your lease for your landlord’s pet policy. It is a bad idea to hide a pet from a landlord that prohibits them on the property, and most tenants who try this usually get caught. You must be prepared to pay additional fees or a deposit if pets are allowed on the property. You should also check to see that your deposit is refundable in case your pet does not cause any property damage. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. In this case, your landlord is required to permit the animal on the property with no additional fees. If you have one, make sure your landlord knows so you can avoid problems in the future.

5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities

As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. Most leases provide that the landlord will do certain services while you do others. Usual tenant duties include lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. There are some landlords who prefer to have their property professionally cleaned between tenants. Others expect their tenants to do it on their own or hire a professional cleaning company to get the job done. Whatever your arrangement may be, you must decide whether you will be able to fulfill your responsibilities before signing the lease.

Ultimately, it is important that you take the time to go over the lease carefully. Bring up all your questions and clarifications if necessary. Some parts of your lease may be negotiable so consider asking your landlord for revisions if there are things you don’t like. Because you are the one who has to live with the lease terms, the more you know, the better it is for you.

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