Residential Rentals — Why You Need a Lease Agreement and How To Understand It

It’s easy to understand being excited when you’ve finally found the apartment or house you’ve been looking for. Whether it’s the shorter commute to work, the lake views and mature trees in the landscape, or the energy efficient design that draws you, when you’ve found what seems like the perfect fit, you want to jump on it right away.

You’re thinking, “Let’s sign the lease, get the keys, and get moving!” 

And we get it. We’ve all been there. But before you call the movers, it’s important that you read the renter’s lease carefully. And not just read it… but really understand it. 

So let’s talk about why it’s so important to understand your renter’s lease and what to do if you have questions about it. 

Why You Need a Renter’s Lease 

“A lease is a contract between someone who owns real estate (the landlord) and another person who occupies that piece of real estate (the tenant), covering the conditions under which the tenant may possess, occupy, and use the property.” – Investopedia

When you sign a lease, you’re agreeing to the set of rules your landlord has put in place. A lease that’s drafted well covers a lot of details, and some of them can seem nitpicky, but the rules are designed for protection — they’re meant to protect both you and the landlord. 

Again, it may seem like a lot to read pages and pages of a renter’s lease agreement, but when leases spell out the details and make expectations clear, everyone wins. The landlord can’t ask for more than the lease demands, and renters have to keep up their end of the deal, too. 

Types of Leases

There are four types of leases for residential rental property: 

  1. Fixed-term lease – A lease agreement for a specific period of time, typically six months to a year. The tenant is obligated to pay rent for the entire term of the lease, even if they move out early.
  2. Periodic lease – A lease that automatically renews on a regular basis, typically month-to-month. The tenant can be required to give notice if they wish to move out, typically 30 days.
  3. Lease-option – A lease agreement that gives the tenant the option to purchase the property at a set price during the term of the lease.
  4. Sublease – A lease agreement where the tenant leases the property from another tenant who is the primary leaseholder.

Understanding the Details of Your Renter’s Lease

It’s so important to know what you’re agreeing to when you sign a renter’s agreement for an apartment or house. Like we mentioned earlier, a lease agreement can be pretty long and detailed, and it may be tempting to just breeze right through it and sign on the dotted line.

But one of the best things you can do for yourself is to pay attention to the details. When you sign the lease agreement, you’re agreeing to abide by the landlord’s rules. And breaking those rules typically means paying some extra fees or in extreme cases, getting kicked out of the property. So, to avoid any late fees or other additional costs, be sure you understand what’s required of you before you sign the lease.

Here are just a few of the details a strong rental agreement should cover:

Deposits – Most leases will require a security deposit, which is typically the equivalent of one month’s rent. This deposit is held by the landlord to ensure that the tenant leaves the property in good condition and pays any outstanding rent or utility bills.

Rent – The lease agreement will include the amount of rent owed each month. This amount is typically due on the first day of the month, and late fees may apply if it’s not paid on time.

Length of Lease – Leases often last for one year, though shorter or longer terms may be available. The length of your lease should be clearly stated in the agreement.

Utilities – The lease should also specify which utilities, if any, are included in the rent. In some cases, the tenant may be responsible for all utilities, while in others the landlord may cover some or all of the costs.

Repairs and Maintenance – The lease should spell out who’s responsible for repairs and maintenance on the property. In most cases, the landlord is responsible for major repairs, while the tenant is responsible for minor repairs and general upkeep. 

Rules and Regulations – The lease should include any other rules and regulations the tenant is expected to follow. These may include quiet hours, pet policies, and parking restrictions.

By understanding the details of your lease, you can be sure you’re following all the rules and regulations the landlord has established.This will help to avoid any potential disputes. 

What To Do When You Have Questions About the Lease

If you have questions about your renter’s lease, the best thing to do is to ask the landlord or property manager. They’ll be able to explain the lease to you and help you understand it. If you still have questions after speaking with the landlord or property manager, you can always consult an attorney. 

Also, remember… if the landlord agrees to any adjustments in the lease, you’ll need those changes in writing. If you make a handshake agreement with a landlord or property manager, you might as well not have made an agreement at all. If someone else buys the property or a new property manager takes over, neither will know the details of your handshake agreement unless they’re written in your signed lease agreement. 

A renter’s lease agreement is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself when renting property. Be sure you take the time to truly understand the details of the rental agreement before signing it so you take full advantage of the protection it offers.

When you’re in the market for your next rental house or apartment, let the team at Gaskill Realty help you wade through the details of the renter’s lease so you fully understand what you’re getting into. Reach out to us today!

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