When signing a lease it’s important to remember that not only are you signing for a place to live, you’re signing a legally binding contract. Knowing the ins and outs of all your documents and clauses is crucial in your understanding of your responsibilities as well as your landlord’s. There are specific questions to ask before signing a lease for an apartment in Woodbridge, NJ. Beyond rent-related questions, what should you know?

What are the lease terms?

Whether you and your landlord discussed a month-to-month lease or a year-long lease, it’s important to make sure whatever you’ve agreed on is what is written on the lease itself. Because the lease is legally binding, once you sign it you agree to what’s on it, which is why it is important to read each clause over.

If the lease doesn’t start on the first of the month, is rent pro-rated?

Most lease terms will have you start moving in and paying rent on the first of the month, but if you’re moving in later on in the month you’ll want to ask how much of that month you’ll be paying for. This also applies to the end of the lease if it ends before the month is up. This offer of paying only for the time the resident will be living in the unit is known as pro-rated rent and is a standard offer, so make sure that it’s written into the lease. If it’s not, request pro-rated prices applied to the time periods before and after your lease term.

What is the policy on breaking the lease early?

Let’s face it, things happen. You’re not renting the apartment with plans to terminate the lease early but sometimes unexpected things come up, and you may need to move out before your lease is over. Make sure you know the policies around breaking the lease early in case something should come up. Some common penalties would be paying a fine, forfeiting your security deposit, or paying an extra month’s rent.

What are the rules for non-tenant access?

There will be a clause written in about entry by landlords or maintenance workers, but make sure that it lists reasonable conditions. Anyone aside from you and the people living with you should not be able to come and go as they please. The standard notice for entering an apartment is 24 hours, but it can vary. Make sure the clause notates that there will be some amount of notice before anyone can enter your apartment. Most states have laws about how much notice is required, so research the laws in Woodbridge, NJ, to make sure your landlord is giving you your legal right.

How is rent paid and when is it due?

Typically rent is due on the first of the month, but make sure when you’re expected to pay. There are many methods of paying your landlord might accept, including online payments, auto-payments, dropping off money to the leasing office or having it mailed somewhere. Some methods are more convenient than others, so make sure that if you have to drop off or mail money somewhere that you have it ready ahead of time.

Is renter’s insurance required?

Sometimes required by state law, renter’s insurance is always good to have when in any kind of apartment. It’s generally pretty affordable, and if it’s required by your landlord, you’ll need a copy of it in your documents to present as proof of insurance before you can sign the lease.

What can be done by the tenant to personalize the apartment?

One of the unfortunate parts of living in a rented space is that you may be unable to personalize it to your liking. Ask ahead of time what you can do in the way of painting, hanging things from the walls, or wall installing wall shelving. The policies on this vary from community to community so you’ll want to make sure you won’t incur penalties before beginning to decorate. You may have to pay a hefty fee if the landlords will have to repaint or repair holes in the wall when your lease is up.

Is the security deposit refundable?

Most of the time, the tenant will get all or part of the security deposit back after the lease is up depending on the state they leave the unit in. If there isn’t a lot of mess to clean or repairs to attend to, you’re more likely to get all of your deposit back. To cover your bases, ask if there are specific circumstances in which you wouldn’t be getting your deposit back.

Is there any damage in the unit at the time of signing?

Make sure you get any current damage written down on paper so that you don’t get penalized for it when you move out. Ask the landlord about worn floors or cracks in the countertops before you move in and do a walkthrough yourself and document anything you see– your phone will come in handy for this to take pictures. Don’t run the risk of getting blamed for any damage was there before you moved in.

What is the renewal process?

It’s important to know how much notice to give your landlord before renewing after your initial term. You’ll want to stay on top of this because they may not remind you when it’s time to consider renewing. Ask about the process early so that you’re ready when the times comes if it’s something you’re interested in.

The more you know before signing the lease the more equipped you’ll be to handle apartment related situations when the time comes during your lease term. Being prepared for anything that comes up is the best way to arm yourself against surprise situations. Once you sign the lease, you’ve legally agreed to everything it enlists, so be sure you know what all you’re signing to before you do it. Once you know all the questions to ask before signing a lease on an apartment in Woodbridge, NJ, you’ll hopefully have a stress-free and enjoyable lease term!