One major mistake a Burlington tenant can make is not reading the lease completely before signing it. This can be a very big problem because no two leases are exactly alike, and some landlords may stipulate things in the lease that you should not agree to. A lease is a binding legal contract, so unless a clause violates state law, you could end up with responsibility for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. You must read the entire lease carefully before signing it. And, as you go through the lease, watch out for these things in particular.
1. Documentation of Property Condition
Make sure your landlord has a system for documenting the condition of the property before you sign a lease or move into your new home. If you don’t have some way to document the property’s condition before moving in, you could pay a hefty price. Protect yourself by asking about your landlord’s documentation process and immediately report any existing damage before you move in.
2. Termination Policy and Fees
Check if your lease covers a specific time period or if you have to renew it on a month-to-month basis. Regardless of which approach your lease uses, you must understand the policy on ending or canceling the lease and what fees you might incur. Some leases only require 30-60 days advance notice that you will be leaving. However, others carry penalties for terminating a lease. For example, if you sign a 12-month lease but then you need to move out 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. Since each lease is different, you must read these policies carefully and address any concerns before signing.
3. Roommates and Subletting
Some renters assume that when they rent a home, they can 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. You would not want to be caught illegally subletting your place –which can get you evicted or be financially responsible for damages your illegal tenant caused while staying in the residence.
4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees
If the home you are looking for will also be a place for your beloved pet, it is best to 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. You must be prepared to pay additional fees or a deposit if pets are allowed on the property. You should also check to see if your deposit is refundable if your pet doesn’t cause property damage. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. If it is, your landlord must allow the animal on the property and can’t charge any additional fees. Communicate your situation to your landlord to avoid problems later on.
5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities
As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. In the usual leases, the landlord will take care of certain services, leaving the others for you to do. Some common duties of tenants include lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. There are some landlords who prefer to have their property professionally cleaned between tenants. Others give the responsibility of cleaning to the tenants, allowing them to hire a professional cleaning company to do the job. Regardless, you have to know your responsibilities and make sure you are comfortable with them before signing the lease.
The bottom line is that it’s really important to take the time and read through your lease carefully. If there is anything you do not understand, clarify it with your landlord. If there are parts of your lease you are uncomfortable with, and these are negotiable, you can ask your landlord for revisions. As you will be the one living with the lease terms, understanding them clearly will mean fewer surprises for you later on.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.