What to Look for in a Lease
Every lease is different, which is why it is very important to read carefully, even if it means keeping a property manager waiting at a signing appointment. There are a few things most leases have in common. Below are some items you should look for in your lease.
- Lease length—most leases are for one year and state a specific beginning and ending date. Remember, after you sign you are committed to paying rent for the duration of the lease. Look carefully at what date you are required to vacate the premises. Some properties end their leases a few days early in order to clean and make repairs, which means there could be a few days between when one lease ends and another begins, leaving you and your belongings in limbo.
- Rent payments and late fees—make sure you know how much your rent is and what the late fees are. Some leases will have hidden fees in fine print for carpet cleaning, rekeying, etc. so read carefully. If your landlord withdrawals your rent directly from your bank account, make certain the lease states he/she is not able to withdrawal anything beyond rent payments.
- Security deposit—the security deposit is money collected by the landlord to cover any damages beyond reasonable wear and tear caused by the tenant and should be returned if there are none. In Kansas, for an unfurnished apartment, the security deposit should not exceed more than one month’s rent. For a furnished apartment, it can be up to one and one half months’ rent, and if pets are allowed, it can be up to two months’ rent. Check to see if there are any automatic deductions for carpet cleaning or if a specific cleaning service is required.
- Joint and several liability—almost all leases are jointly and severally liable. THIS MEANS THAT IF YOUR ROOMMATES DEFAULT ON RENT, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR COVERING THEIR SHARE! If that happens, you may sue your roommates for the rent they owe, but you first have to pay the landlord for their share. Don’t room with people you don’t trust to pay!
- Utilities—find out which if any of your utilities are included in your rent, or if you are responsible for them on your own.
- Maintenance—make sure you know who to contact if there is a maintenance issue. Who pays for what?
- Subleasing—some landlords allow subleasing; others do not. This may not seem important when you sign, but sometimes unforeseen circumstances make the subleasing clause very important should you need to move for any reason.
- Early termination—a few leases will have an early termination clause stating a fee you can pay to break a lease. If your lease does not have a clause like this, it is likely that it will be very difficult to end the lease early.
- Making changes—if you would like to change something in your lease, you may write in or strike out a line and have both you and your landlord initial by the change. This makes the change legally binding. If you were promised repairs or updates before moving in, make sure they are in the lease and include a date by which they must be completed.
- Get a copy! Make sure your landlord provides a copy of the signed lease right away in case you need it for reference.
If you have any questions about your lease, make an appointment with OCHS for a free lease review!