Seven Things to Know Before Signing a Lease

According to Pew Research, more U.S. households are renting now than at any point in the last 50 years. Erie Insurance shares a few tips to make the process of finding a new apartment a little less overwhelming.

Make renting a hassle-free experience (PRNewsfoto/Erie Insurance)

  1. Know what you’re paying for. There’s more to renting than just sending a check to your landlord once a month. Many landlords require a security deposit of one (or even two) month’s rent. Others impose an application fee for background and/or credit checks. Depending on where you’re renting, you may be responsible for certain utilities. If your complex has perks like an on-site gym and laundry, you may be required to pay an amenities fee. In addition to knowing what you’re paying for, understand what maintenance responsibilities you have. For instance, who is responsible for landscaping and/or snow removal?
  2. Consider the parking situation. Parking options can range from designated parking lots to on-street parking. No car? Consider whether your potential new place is located close to bus or train lines.
  3. Document the condition of the apartment. Do a walkthrough before you sign a lease and note any damage, documenting with photos. Otherwise, you could lose your security deposit at the end of your lease.
  4. Ask if the apartment is pet friendly. People love pets, but many landlords don’t because pets can cause damage. Where pets are permitted, renters are often required to pay a non-refundable pet deposit and an additional fee each month for the pleasure of Miss Kitty’s company.
  5. Know the length of your lease. Lease periods are generally one year and spelled out in the contract. However, always double check. Also understand whether your lease auto-renews and if it auto-renews for the same length of time, or if you have to notify your landlord of your intent to renew.
  6. Get it all in writing. Conversations had in good faith should still be documented in writing, especially any variations from the standard agreement. This holds both you and your landlord accountable.
  7. Ask if you can sub-lease. Sub-leasing can be very helpful in certain situations. Check with your landlord first—if he or she gives you the green light, look for someone responsible to lease your place.

Keeping these seven things in mind before you sign on the dotted line will help create a hassle-free renting experience.