Do You Know How to Read Your Lease?

Lease AgreementWhether you are transferring to a new apartment or this is your first time renting, there will come a time that you need to review your rental agreement. The language in these agreements is meant to be simple, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows what they are looking at. Before you sign anything, make sure you understand what it is you are signing and learn some of the details that are commonly found on lease agreements.

The Basic Information

A lease needs the basic information, such as the manager of the property, who is in charge of collecting payments, phone numbers and contact information for management and service repair staff. Also, your lease should spell out how long the lease is for and your exact rental amount. If you had to pay a security deposit, that amount should be in the lease as well as any information about how you will get the security deposit back.


If you have a pet or you are thinking of getting a pet, what does your lease say about those furry friends? A lease should tell you whether or not pets are allowed and any restrictions on those pets. Some apartments will only allow dogs, for example, up to a specific weight. Also, make sure there isn’t an additional rental fee for having a pet stay with you — some apartments add a few hundred a year for your pet addition.


If you decide down the road to have a roommate help you out with the rent, what is the process? Your lease should specify if the roommate must be on the lease (which means they will have to pass the credit check too) and how you must go about notifying them. Some apartments even have restrictions about guests who stay longer than a week.


See who is responsible for maintaining the apartment. You might be surprised at how many responsibilities apartments are now putting on their tenants and don’t mention it upfront — instead they hide it in the lease. If you have to pay for a plumber or electrician to come out and make repairs, it probably isn’t a lease you want to sign.


Utilities that are included with your rent should be on the lease. This could include water, sewage, etc. Some apartments pay for internet and electricity, while others don’t cover any utilities at all. You should have a detailed list of what utilities you must pay for on your lease.

If you are ever unsure what you are signing, speak to the apartment manager and have them explain the lease to you. Managers must be transparent about these legal documents — if they aren’t willing to take the time to explain them, it might be in your best interest to find a different apartment.

Mar 2014