Landlord Woes? Here’s How to Avoid Regret After Signing a Lease

by Ben SanfordJune 22, 2018

Read This Before You Sign the Lease on Your New Home

It’s every renter’s worst nightmare: you’ve already signed the lease and you’re reading through the agreement just for good measure when you suddenly spot something in the agreement that totally sours the deal. Or worse, you’ve signed the lease and are walking through your new apartment when you realize that something is wrong or broken, and the lease agreement doesn’t require the landlord to fix the problem.

We’ve all had our fair share of rental nightmares, which is why we’ve put together this guide to make sure that you never have to experience the terrible feeling of renter’s regret. Read these tips before you sign the lease to make sure that you fall happily in love with your rental and never look back.

home rental tips

Make a List of Priorities When Looking at Rentals

Before you begin your search for a new rental, make a list of the things that are most important to you when it comes to your living situation. Are you a home cook who really values a gas stove and a dishwasher? Do you need an apartment that allows your dog to romp around the living room and backyard? Are you looking for a place within walking distance from your new job? Figure out the aspects of a home that you can’t go without, and then find listings that cater to those priorities.

Your list of priorities should include a nonnegotiable budget—meaning, don’t even look at places that are too expensive for you. If you end up looking at rentals that don’t have everything on your list, be sure to really carefully weigh the pros and cons. Don’t sign the lease the day you look at a rental — give yourself at least 24 hours to think over a property before diving in, especially if it doesn’t have everything on your priority list.

Ask the Right Questions Before Renting

Alongside your list of priorities, have a list of questions to ask the landlord or your broker. Ask about whether utilities are included in the cost of the lease, and be sure to inquire about fees, pet policies, and anything else that may be unclear right from the get-go.

If the landlord or broker mentions amenities like repairs that will be made before move in, or brings down any fees, make sure you get these promises in writing. Technically, if the landlord agrees to something but doesn’t include it in the lease, they may not need to keep that promise.

home rental tips

Know the Neighborhood Where You’re Planning to Rent a Home

Before you decide on a rental home, explore the neighborhood to avoid surprises after move in. If you rely on public transportation, find out how far you’ll need to walk to get to the nearest bus or tram stop. Keep your eye out for things like grocery stores, laundromats (if you don’t have a washer and dryer in your unit), parks, and restaurants.

Pay attention to bars and restaurants in close vicinity to the building or house, and keep in mind that neighborhoods with a bustling nightlife may be noisy at night time. Look for neighborhoods that fit your lifestyle, and go with your gut when it comes to finding a neighborhood that you vibe with.

Read the Fine Print on Your Rental Agreement

No matter where you decide to settle, be sure to review the lease thoroughly before you move in. Don’t assume that your landlord will include everything that you’ve spoken about in the lease. If something doesn’t look right about the lease, don’t be afraid to ask questions before you sign.

Be sure that the lease includes information about who will handle and finance necessary repairs and routine maintenance. Are there fees for late payments or early lease termination? Are there specific rules about subletting? Get everything in writing and leave nothing up for interpretation.

home rental tips

Advocate for Yourself

Some landlords and brokers are willing to negotiate when it comes to extra fees. Many renters regret paying too much for broker fees, so don’t be afraid to ask for lower fees. If a broker’s fee is 15% of the monthly payment, negotiate with your broker to bring it down to 10%. A little haggling could end up saving you hundreds of dollars over the life of your lease.

In the end, you’ll be committing to living in this home for a year or potentially longer, so make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Advocating for yourself during the lease-signing process could save you money and make your living situation much more enjoyable for the coming months and years in your new home.

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About The Author
Ben Sanford
Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.