5 Things to Look for in Your First Lease Agreement

5 Things to Look for in Your First Lease Agreement

When you’re finally ready to take the leap and get an apartment or rental of your own, it can seem like you have unlimited options. After all, more people use the internet now more than ever to find the best deals in the perfect neighborhood.

With the countless options available, picking out the best one can be overwhelming. When you’re ready to move to a place of your own, look out for these five features in your potential new home when you fill out a rent application.

The pet policy

If you have a furry family member, a landlord’s pet policy could make or break your deal. Many rental sites and online resources will enable you to filter out the homes that don’t allow pets, but you never know when the seemingly perfect home fails to include this vital information.

This gets even more harrowing if the landlord claims that the rental is “pet-friendly” but only allows cats. While you might be able to get away with a small dog, your Great Dane probably needs to stay with your parents. It gets even more difficult when some landlords also include a pet fee in your monthly rent, so this is something to budget for when you move in. A pricey pet fee could put the perfect apartment out of your price range, especially if you need to put down an initial $100-plus pet deposit on top of that.

Renewal clauses

When you finally find the perfect apartment, you may want to stay there for a long time. Most apartments and rental units have you sign a 12-month lease. Unless you renew your lease, you could be homeless until you find a new place.

Some landlords have renewal policies that you should look over with a fine-tooth comb. In most cases for renewal, you must put down a deposit for the next year’s lease months 90 days in advance to claim your apartment. This way, the landlord doesn’t need to waste the resources needed for advertising the space, giving tours, and drawing up a new rental agreement.

Landlords may also include an escalation clause, meaning that rent will increase by a certain percentage each year that you live there. This is primarily because of shifts and changes in the housing market, but some landlords may ask for more than you can give.

The floor plan

Many older buildings feature unique rooms with interesting floor plans. If your landlord doesn’t note which apartment room you’re getting, you may be stuck in one you hate.

This is exceedingly rare, but it’s important that you reread every word of your lease agreement to ascertain you’re choosing the right home for the right price. You don’t want an expensive top-floor apartment if you prefer a unit on the bottom floor. After all, high-level rooms are often more expensive than those on the ground floor.

The utilities

Are the utilities included? Even though your landlord claims that some amenities are covered in the lease, accounting for heat, electrical, internet, and gas can boost your cost to unforeseen heights. This becomes especially problematic if you’re living on your own for the first time because you cannot split that cost with a roommate.

Double-check the fine details with your landlord before you sign the lease. Ensure you ask what utilities are included in the agreement, even if the initial advertisement online claimed that they cover it all. Knowing what financial obligations you’re responsible for is essential before you sign on that dotted line and are locked into an agreement for the next year.

What does maintenance cover?

Your landlord is often responsible for major building issues, including any plumbing concerns or water damage. However, this gets tricky if you’re a little clumsy. Be sure to check with your landlord regarding what costs are covered by basic maintenance and when a professional is needed. This can help you save in the long run.

Choosing your first apartment is an adventure, but it can get exhausting traveling down every path. When you’re looking for the perfect place, follow these five tips to rent the home of your dreams.