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5 Things to Look for When Signing a Lease

Unsigned Falcon Rental Agreement ContractSigning a lease without reading it thoroughly is one of the biggest mistakes any Gainesville tenant can make. This can become a huge problem because there are no two leases that are exactly alike, and some landlords may add things to the list that you would not be wise to agree with. As a lease is a binding legal contract, unless the specific clause violates state law, you could have responsibility for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. You must read the entire lease carefully before signing it. You should also keep an eye out for these particular items in the lease.

1. Documentation of Property Condition

Before signing a lease for your new home, make sure your landlord has a way of documenting the property’s condition. It would be very disadvantageous for you not to have some way to document the property’s condition before you move in. Ask for your landlord’s documentation process and make sure you report any existing damage before moving in.

2. Termination Policy and Fees

Most leases cover a specific time period, while some can be renewed on a month-to-month basis. Whichever type of lease you have, it is important that you understand your landlord’s policy regarding ending or canceling the lease as well as the fees involved. There are leases that require advance notice 30-60 days before you leave. However, others carry penalties for terminating a lease. For example, if you agree to a 12-month lease but you have to move after six months, you might be required 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 every lease is different, it is important to go over these policies carefully and ask any questions before signing.

3. Roommates and Subletting

Renters must not assume that renting a home means they have the right to sublet all or part of it to others. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. Before subletting your home or getting a roommate to help with the rent, you have to check carefully if your lease allows it. 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

Bringing a pet with you into your new home will require that you check your lease for your landlord’s pet policy. It is never a good idea to hide a pet when your landlord does not allow them on the property. Most tenants who do this often get caught. If pets are allowed, it usually means you have to pay additional fees or a deposit. It is also good to check if that deposit is refundable if not property damage is caused by your pet. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. If this is the case, the landlord has to allow the animal on the property without charging any additional fees. If you are in a similar situation, you have to inform your landlord to avoid future problems.

5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities

As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. In most leases, these services are divided between the landlord and the tenant. Some common duties of tenants include lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. Some landlords would choose to provide these services and have the property cleaned professionally before a new tenant moves in. Other landlords let their tenants be responsible for the cleaning, allowing them to hire their own professional cleaning company to get the job done. Either way, you have to know which responsibilities are yours before signing the lease.

You really have to read your lease carefully. Ask for clarification if there is anything you do not understand. There could be parts of your lease that are negotiable so do not hesitate to ask your landlord for revisions. Since you will be the one living with the lease terms, it would be best not to have any surprises later on.


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