Before you sign your next lease you want to make sure you read over everything carefully and that you fully understand what's included in it. The last thing you want is to be tied into a lease you've signed and then find out something you don't agree with or are not happy about. Also, based on what's documented in your lease, you might need to adjust your budget to accommodate certain costs outside of your rent.
"You want to make sure your lease answers all your questions before you sign it."
That being said, here are some important questions you want to make sure any lease you sign answers or you can address them directly with the landlord and request an update to the lease before you sign it.
Question 1: When is rent due and is there a grace period?
This is a pretty obvious and basic question but it's a very important one. You want to be clear on when your rent is due as well as the grace period you have to pay, to ensure you include the correct dates on your calendar and avoid paying it late at all costs. Late rent equals late fees (and depending on how late, a negative remark against you) and you don't want that.
Question 2: What are the payment options to pay your rent and what is the late fee?
When it comes to options to pay your rent, you want to factor in how long it will take for your landlord to receive the payment from you in relation to the due date of your rent. Landlords will not factor in postage times or transfer delays as a reason not to charge you a late fee. If your rent is however delayed due to one of these reasons, communicate with your landlord and let them know asap.
Also if you know you are going to be charged a late fee, you want to at least know how much it's going to be so you are not blind-sided by the amount.
Question 3: How long is the lease and what happens after the lease ends?
Once you confirm the term of your lease, you also want to find out what happens after the lease ends. Do you go into a month to month contract? Does the lease automatically renew for a set period of time? Do your rent payments increase until you sign a new lease? It's important that you find out.
Question 4: What utilities and routine maintenance are covered by your rent?
Don't make any assumptions here. You need to know for sure what utilities and maintenance items are covered for sure so you can build what isn't into your budget. For example, will you be responsible for water and electricity? What about snow removal and grass cutting? Who will cover pest control? Again, all things you need to know.
Question 5: What about maintenance issues?
Who should you call for maintenance issues and is there anything that is not covered by the landlord.
Question 6: What are the associated fees if you need to end your lease early and how much notice do you need to give your landlord before moving out?
Sometimes life happens and you need to move in advance of when your lease ends. However, there may be steep costs associated and you want to make sure you are aware of them so you can factor them into your budget in advance.
Question 7: Are you allowed to sublet your apartment as an alternative?
Subletting is not something all landlords allow and you can be charged a hefty fine for going against this. So be sure you know whether or not you are allowed to sublet your apartment if you need to move out early.
Question 8: Is your deposit fully refundable?
Some landlords might include fixed costs you have to pay when you move out in your lease such as a re-painting or repair fee or even pet deposits that gets taken out of your security deposit. Before you start making plans for your security deposit you want to confirm whether you are getting it all back or not.
Object to anything in your lease? Let your landlord know before you sign it and be sure to have any changes documented directly in the lease or as an amendment to the lease.
One other very important thing to consider when moving into a new apartment is getting renters insurance to protect your personal property from theft, flooding or fire - your landlord's insurance will not cover your personal property.