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Renters Rules:Elements to Know Before Signing a Lease

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By Rachel Derry
Staff Writer LIFamilies

You aren’t quite ready for the big plunge of buying a home of your own. There are definite benefits to renting space before buying one. There are fewer responsibilities, fewer bills, and less to worry about leaving behind. However, even with a pay-as-you-go rental, there are certain steps that you are not going to want to miss on the path to your perfect rental.

The beauty of a lease is that nothing is set in stone UNTIL you sign it. Before you ever sign that lease, make sure that everything is clear, clean cut, and out in the open:
Negotiate with your renter. Make sure that you have what you need in your lease. The price, inclusions, and even status can all be negotiated; if handled properly and professionally. If the apartment needs it, have upgrades and renovations included in the lease agreement. If you are open and direct about your wants and needs for the living space, most likely your desires can be me.

Before you sign the lease, make sure to go over all pre-existing damage to the living space with the landlord. In many cases, the landlord is going to fix the damage and all will be forgotten. In the case that the damages are to stay, make sure that they are recorded on the lease agreement. That way, once the lease is up, you can not be held liable for prior tenants’ damages.

If you want to make changes to the apartment yourself make sure to get the go ahead before you sign the lease. If you are not going to be able to make improvements, and can’t live with that, this is probably not the living space for you. If you weren’t allowed, or didn’t ask permission first, your landlord can actually charge you for “bettering the apartment.” You may see putting in a closet as an improvement, but your landlord may see it as damage to the property. You could be fined or, worse, evicted for not okaying changes in your lease.

Make sure everything possible is included. If you don’t know what is available to you, you may miss out on having a lot of your utilities included on your lease. Before signing, see if the landlord will cover any of the utilities; whether heat, electricity, water, cable, etc.

Know up front what the pet policy is, or is going to be. If your significant other or child is of the furry, four-legged persuasion, chances are you knew the policy before you ever looked at the space. If you may want a pet in the future, however, but don’t have one yet, you’ll want to know the policy. Many times if pets are allowed it means a bigger security deposit upfront, so make sure to check for details.

Make sure all of the pre-lease details that you have discussed, especially all of the above, is written into the contract. Even if some states honor verbal contracts: if it’s not in writing, it’s not set in stone.

Lastly, remember that signing a lease is literally signing a contractual agreement, and that’s not to be taken lightly. When you sign a lease, you are making a commitment to the space and the landlord to follow the agreed policies and stay the agreed upon length of time. Although you didn’t sign into a life-long commitment (like buying a house) you can’t just leave your least at the drop of a hat, unless there isn’t a time commitment.

Long Island Home & Lifestyle Articles > Renters Rules:Elements to Know Before Signing a Lease

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