What Should I Consider When Inspecting a Lease Agreement?

Mary McMahon

Moving into a new house can be an exciting experience, but it is important to make sure that you understand the terms of the lease agreement for your new home before you move in. Many tenants sign a contract without inspecting it carefully and are unpleasantly surprised, so take the time to go over your agreement thoroughly. If possible, take a copy home with you and read it before signing it, or ask for some time alone to inspect it before you sign it.

Money is a major part of a lease agreement.
Money is a major part of a lease agreement.

The first thing to inspect when looking at an agreement is the length and terms of the lease. Many landlords lease homes for six months to one year, and you should determine the penalties for leaving the property early if you need to. In other cases, you may find a month to month setup, which indicates that you can occupy the home for an indefinite amount of time, as long as you pay the rent on time every month. The contract should also clearly spell out the number of days notice required to terminate the lease, usually thirty days.

Checking the length and terms of a lease is important before signing an agreement.
Checking the length and terms of a lease is important before signing an agreement.

While reading over the agreement, review the rules and policies for the home: they are often in a section marked “community living agreement,” “house rules,” or “apartment living policies.” Usually this section spells out the requirements for maintaining the home, such as yard upkeep and other routine maintenance that you will be expected to undertake. It will also spell out rules on noise, parking, and other community living issues. Certain violations may be immediate grounds for eviction, so make sure that you understand restrictions on pets, water filled furniture, or modifications to the unit.

The agreement should also be explicit about what is and is not covered by the lease: if the home is furnished, the lease should indicate that. If the rental payments cover utilities such as water and garbage, this should be spelled out. In addition, the contract should inform you about when rent is due, and penalties for paying the rent late. The amount of the deposit should also be included, and may not exceed two times the monthly rent, except in the case of furnished units.

Take the time to look over your lease agreement carefully, and ask for clarification on clauses that you do not understand. If you feel that changes need to be made, make sure that the changes are made in writing and signed by yourself and the leasing agent. By going over your agreement before you sign it and move in, you can spare yourself potential headaches later.

Discussion Comments


is there a waiting period past the day rent is due? how much can late charges be? can they be more than rent itself? say if i was in a car accident can my landlord charge me the day after rent is due late charges until i pay?


Can you provide an example of a sale lease back and how the seller can make it financially beneficial in the short term and the long term?

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