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5 Things to Look for When Signing a Lease

Unsigned Wilmington Rental Agreement ContractAs a Wilmington tenant, do not make the big mistake of not thoroughly reading a lease before you sign it. This can turn out to be a huge problem since no two leases are exactly alike, and some landlords might have items in their lease that you wouldn’t be comfortable with. Since a lease is a binding contract, unless a particular clause violates state law, you could be held responsible for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. Before signing anything, go over the entire lease thoroughly. As you read through the lease, look out for these items in particular.

1. Documentation of Property Condition

Before signing a lease for your new home, make sure your landlord has a way of documenting the property’s condition. If you don’t have some way to document the property’s condition before moving in, you could pay a hefty price. For your protection, ask about your landlord’s documentation process and make sure to report any existing damage before moving in.

2. Termination Policy and Fees

While most leases cover a specific time period, others may be renewed on a month-to-month basis. Regardless, you should understand your lease’s stated policy on ending or canceling the lease and what fees you may incur. Some leases require that you give 30-60 days advance notice before your intent to leave. But other leases carry harsh penalties for terminating a lease. For example, if you agree to a 12-month lease but you have to move after six months, you might be required to pay a cancellation fee, the remaining rent on the contract, or both. You may also forfeit some or all of your security deposit. Because each lease is different, you have to review these policies carefully and address any unclear portions before you sign.

3. Roommates and Subletting

Renters must not assume that renting a home means they have the right to sublet all or part of it to others. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. If you will be gone for a long time and have planned to sublet your home for that duration or get a roommate to help you with the rent, you would need to carefully check if your lease allows it. Illegally subletting your place can get you evicted or held financially responsible for damages during your illegal tenant’s stay in the residence.

4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees

Bringing a pet with you into your new home will require that you check your lease for your landlord’s pet policy. It is never a good idea to hide a pet when your landlord does not allow them on the property. Most tenants who do this often get caught. Landlords who allow pets, usually ask for additional fees or a deposit. It is also good to check if that deposit is refundable if not property damage is caused by your pet. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. In a case like this, the landlord has to allow the animal on the property with no additional fees. If you are in this situation, you have to let your landlord know so you won’t have problems in the future.

5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities

As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. Usually, the landlord provides certain services while requiring you to do others. Usually, tenants are assigned lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. Some landlords prefer to take on these services and have their property cleaned professionally between tenants. Other landlords let their tenants be responsible for the cleaning, allowing them to hire their own professional cleaning company to get the job done. Either way, you have to know which responsibilities are yours before signing the lease.

The bottom line is that it’s really important to take the time and read through your lease carefully. Make sure you understand all the terms, and clarify anything, if necessary. If there are negotiable parts of your lease, ask your landlord for revisions if you don’t feel comfortable with them. You are the one who will have to live with the lease terms so the more you know, the easier your stay will be.

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