When it’s time to sign the lease, your excitement might get the best of you. Don’t find yourself unprepared or rushed into signing a document, especially one that can become a nightmare if there are issues. Signing a lease is a big step when renting an apartment so make sure you’re prepared to do it.
Step 1: Initial Walk-Through
You probably have done your research on the neighborhood and base cost of rent for the apartment you are viewing. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. You might notice why the apartment is so cheap or so expensive if the neighborhood is safe and other information that might impact your decision to move. Also, check out this list from Apartment Therapy. It might help guide you into making the right move!
Step 2: Gather Your Paperwork
Another important step is to gather all of your paperwork. This will show your future landlord that you are prepared to sign if it’s the right place. It’s recommended that you have readily available copies of the following documents:
- Letter of Employment on the Company Letterhead – Show your hire date, title, base salary + bonus.
- Most Recent Tax Return
- Two Recent Bank Statements with Account Balance
- Two Recent Pay Stubs
- Photo ID
- Letter of Reference from Previous Landlord (if you can obtain one)
Step 3: Check Your Credit
In general, it’s a good idea to check your credit report every couple of months. This helps you to identify possible identity theft or incorrect information. It’s hard to fix these if it happens so acknowledge them immediately. Most landlords will also run a credit check on you to make sure you are a reliable person.
Step 4: Read the Fine Print
Don’t let this one pass you by in the rush. Ask the landlord if you can take a copy of the agreement with you before you make your decision to review. You can negatively impact your renting experience by missing details on your lease. This could also end up costing you money in the end.
Step 5: Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you need answered. These could be about the neighborhood, the apartment, the lease etc. I recommend taking a look at the following questions (you can also search for ideas on Google!):
- How long is the lease term? Is the rent pro-rated?
- Are utilities included?
- Are pets allowed?
- When is rent due and how do I pay it?
- Is the security deposit refundable?
- Is there 24/7 maintenance in case of an emergency?
- What are the rules for personalization?
- How much notice will you give before entering my apartment?
- How often are the locks changed?
- What is the guest policy?
- Is there construction planned in the building or nearby in the future?
- What will you do to prepare the apartment before I move in?
Step 6: Inspect the Property
This step is important because it helps you thoroughly review the apartment before signing the documents. You might be thinking isn’t this the same as the initial walk-through? But it isn’t. The first walk through your vision might be clouded by the excitement of a new place. Check out this handy list from ForRent to see what exactly you need to look for.
Step 7: Request Amendments to the Lease
If you notice any issues or concerns with your walkthroughs and the lease, don’t be afraid to ask for amendments to your lease. You could be an additional document or section in your lease. It can include things such as pro-rated amount, pets, painting and carpet replacement, window treatments etc.
Step 8: Costs
Write a list of any costs associated with the apartment and ask the landlord on average what previous tenants paid. This includes internet, utilities, and other fees. Also, write down additional moving fees or early lease termination fees.
Step 9: Renter’s Insurance
Talk to your insurance provider for a renter’s insurance quote. Many complexes require renters insurance but if yours doesn’t, still purchase it. It’s a fairly cheap investment and could save you a lifetime of bills.
Step 10: Prepare for Next Steps
After you sign the lease, we recommend following these steps:
- Prepare for your move – call your friends and families or book with movers.
- Call for services to be set up or transferred – internet, electric, gas, phone, water, and trash.
- Change your license with the DMV.
- Change your banking information.
- Change your current address with the post office.