My wife and I were both apartment renters in our younger years. Now we are landlords with several 3 and 4-unit residential properties in and around Los Angeles.
Good landlords aren’t looking to take advantage of their tenants. Without even going into the legal and ethical implications, that’s just bad business. And good tenants respect their landlord’s property and time. That’s good business on their end of things as well (again, not to mention the legal and ethical consequences of not doing so).
But even when there are good, moral people on both sides of the landlord-tenant relationship, problems can – and do – still arise. Often, these problems are because of simple misunderstandings. So to help prevent those kinds of problems, here’s what prospective renters should ask before signing a lease:
Number 1: What Will My Total Cost Be and When Is It Due?
You might be surprised at how many people sign leases without understanding all of the associated costs and when they must be paid. Renting an apartment or house is exciting and it can be easy to simply just scan the document and jump straight to the signature line. Most tenants think about obvious costs, such as monthly rent and typical utilities. However, some leases require tenants to pay less obvious costs, such as application fees, credit check fees, parking fees, and optional service fees, such as cable and Internet. Review your lease carefully and compare leases from different landlords–what may seem like a better deal may not actually be better after everything is taken into consideration.
Be sure you know what the deposit is, what will be necessary to get your deposit returned after you move out, when your rent payment is due and what the late fee is if you are late (and whether or not there is a grace period for being late).
Number 2: What Rules and Regulations Will Apply to Me?
Many landlords impose rules on their tenants, particularly those living in close quarters, such as apartment buildings. More common rules include mandatory quiet times, as well as prohibitions on pets or parties. However, other important rules are also found in leases. For example, many landlords prohibit tenants from redecorating their property, from changing locks, from using propane grills or from storing items on balconies or porches. Read the lease carefully to ensure you understand and can abide by each of the rules.
Number 3: When Will My Lease End, and What Happens When It Does?
Many leases define how long they will last (called the “term” of the lease) and under what circumstances they will renew. If the lease does not provide this information, California state law will set the term of the lease and its renewal. Before you sign a residential lease, make sure you know how long you are locked into it and under what circumstances you can move out and owe no more rent. If you are not sure, consult with an attorney.
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