Signing a lease is a delicate thing. There are a lot of documents and a lot of money that goes into it. It’s important to know what all you’re getting yourself into during signing. The landlord may not always be on your side, so knowing the lease agreement red flags to look for can really save your hide. You’re not just looking for a place to live, you’re signing a legally binding contract. You have rights, just like your landlord, so it’s important to look into local laws regarding renting a place.
Your lease should not grant “full and complete access at any time” to your living space. It’s expected that a landlord will put a “right of entry” clause in the lease to enter your apartment for repairs, updates, and for emergencies. However, these situations are appropriate and necessary for your living experience in the apartment. If your landlord does need to enter your property, 24 hours notice is a standard or reasonable time frame to expect, though some landlords may give you notice days in advance if there are mass repairs and updated being done on each unit. The only time when this isn’t the case is for absolute emergencies such as flooding in your apartment. Anything outside of these exceptions should send up an immediate red flag.
Take a close look at the late fee clause on your lease. Take note of important details such as a grace period to drop off rent or how late you will start to accrue interest, as well as what that interest rate is. Most states find 3-5% per day late to be a reasonable late fee to charge tenants. If you tend to be forgetful of bills like rent, you’ll want to read this section over several times to make sure you have an understanding. If the landlords try to stick you with anything like a 12% late fee per day, they are trying to rob you.
If your lease states anything along the lines of the tenant being responsible for all of the repairs in the apartment, they are in violation of the law. They’re required to make the place they’re renting habitable. If your apartment is unlivable or unsafe due to issues like mold or a broken water heater, the landlord is required to amend the problem immediately. There are standards for health and safety that must be upheld. Going hand in hand with this, do not sign a lease that states that the landlord cannot be held responsible for damages sustained to the apartment. Again, their responsibility is to provide a habitable place to live. If the landlord fails at this responsibility they should be held liable for damages. However, if there are smaller repairs that need to be fixed, this may not actually affect the state of safety in the apartment, meaning you may need to sort them out yourself. There is a difference between an apartment being unlivable and being inconvenient. If you have any qualms or concerns about what your responsibility for repairs is during lease signing, seek other options.
Any vagueness such as “tenant’s security deposit will go to upholding the integrity of the apartment” should be a red flag. What qualifies as “integrity of the apartment?” If the home needs repair, will your deposit go into that? If there are no issues with the apartment, how can you get the deposit back? Will you be able to get the deposit back at all? The clause should detail what your deposit will go towards should it be needed at all. If the clause is too vague you may not get your deposit back at all.
Lastly in the biggest lease agreement red flags to look out for is anything that states that the landlord has the right to change the provisions at any time during the lease. This means that anything you sign to in the lease can be changed at any time. The landlord can take advantage of you and change the grace period for late rent, or change the right of entry clause, or any other number of things. When your landlord adds this to the lease they are essentially agreeing to nothing. Make sure the lease agreement has enforced restrictions on the landlord’s ability to alter the terms of the lease.
Lease signing should not be taken lightly. Your landlord has control of your living space, meaning a lot can go wrong if they are too greedy about money or their infringement on your privacy. Make sure you always read over the documents for these lease agreement red flags to look out for, and remember you can always get a legal representative or third party to have a look at the lease agreements to ensure you’re not being scammed.