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Beginning a Lease

What to Know Before Signing a Lease

The lease agreement is the basis for the landlord-tenant relationship. The lease agreement contains the rental terms and the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Because the lease is vital to the landlord-tenant relationship, the landlord and tenant should make a written lease. Putting the lease in writing will help both parties understand the agreement and will help to prove the terms of the agreement in the future.

In many cases the landlord will already have a written lease. The tenant should read this lease carefully and understand the lease before signing it. The landlord and tenant may have negotiated any number of lease terms before signing the lease, but only the terms in the signed lease will count. Both the landlord and the tenant should read the lease carefully to ensure that all the terms of the lease match the agreement they have made. The tenant may ask to take a copy of the lease home with them a day or two before signing so that they have time to read and understand the lease before signing it.

The tenant should take the time necessary to completely understand the agreement that the landlord and tenant are signing. The following list of questions is a good starting point for understanding the lease:

  • How much is rent?
  • When is the rent due?
  • When is the rent late?
  • What is the penalty for paying rent late?
  • Where is the rent paid?
  • What utilities does the tenant pay?
  • What utilities does the landlord pay?
  • When does the lease end?
  • Does the lease renew at its end?
  • Does the tenant have an early termination option?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • How long can visitors stay?
  • If visitors stay longer, what happens?
  • Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs?
  • What is the process for requesting repairs?

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