Renting an apartment might not strike you as a big since all you need to do is find a place you like, sign the lease agreement, pay and move in. As easy as this might sound, you need to be particularly thorough in with the process involved.
The lease agreement is one of the most important documents when renting an apartment because it spells out what is permissible and what is not. What makes it even more crucial is the fact that it is legally binding on both you and the landlord. This is why you should never sign a lease blindly. Before you sign the lease, here are some key questions you need to ask.
When is the Rent Expected to be Due?
You can’t just assume that the landlord expects you to pay your rent within the first month after your rent expires. It doesn’t work that way. If this is not contained in your lease agreement, then you need to ask.
In a situation where you have made a decision to renew your rent at the end of the first month after your rent expires while your landlord is expecting you to make payment on the first day of the month, there’s bound to be friction.
Let’s put this in perspective. Your rent expires in August 2018 and you have decided to renew your rent on September 26, 2018. You are likely to fall on the bad side of your landlord was expecting you to renew your lease on September 1, 2018. One way to avoid this is to ensure this is contained in your lease agreement before you sign. If this detail isn’t covered, you need to ask your landlord.
How Should You Pay Your Rent?
Money is a very sensitive part of a lease. As essential as a lease agreement is, it might not contain details of how the landlord wants you to get the money across. Paying your rent can actually be as simple as a transfer from your mobile phone but the expectations of your landlord might be totally different.
If your landlord belongs to the old school ways of sorting out monetary transactions, you might just find yourself in a situation where you have to drop off a copy of the bank teller at a specified location.
The best way to find out exactly what your landlord prefers is to ask the question before you sign the lease. If you find his/her preferences a bit stressful, you can come up with alternatives and share them with him/her.
What Happens If You Break Your Lease?
When renting an apartment, you usually wouldn’t have the mindset of breaking the lease mid-way into the agreement but these things happen. You might get transferred to another city/state right in the middle of your lease. These things happen so it’s only ideal not to be caught off-guard.
It’s important to find out what the policy is before you append your signature to the lease. If there is a penalty or fine involved, you should not be finding out after signing the lease. In some cases, breaking your lease might result in the loss of your caution fee (also known as security deposit).
What Are the Terms of the Lease?
It is not enough to discuss the terms of your lease without documenting it. The terms of your lease need to be documented in a way that it is considered a legal document.
A 30-minute conversation with the landlord cannot be taken to represent the terms of your lease. It’s okay to have a verbal conversation with the landlord after you have gone through a copy of the lease agreement but in the eyes of the law, a verbal discussion is not legally binding on either you or the landlord.
If you go through the terms of the lease and you notice anything missing, don’t hesitate to ask questions and you should remember that the lease is not a rigid document that cannot be reviewed. So long as the document is signed by you and the landlord, it becomes a legal document.
Is There Any Restriction on Guests?
Some lease agreements place some ground rules on guests and how long they are allowed to stay in your apartment. Don’t make any assumptions on what obtains based on your experience or what you consider rational.
There are cases where the lease does not allow someone who is of the opposite sex pass the night in your apartment; with the exception of relatives. The issue of guests can be quite sensitive to some landlords just as they might be to you as well. This is one question you definitely need to ask.
Will You Get Your Caution Fee Back
Nigerian landlords and agents are notorious for holding onto your caution fee even after you have made it clear that you are relocating. Most times, the landlord gets away with this for two major reasons – First, this detail was not included in the lease. Second, You (the tenant) failed to ask.
The homeowner should be clear on whether the caution fee is going to be refunded or not. In an ideal situation, the caution fee should be refunded to the tenant when moving out especially when there’s no mess or damage left behind. To make things clearer, you can ask the landlord to draw up scenarios where you would have to forfeit your caution fee. However, there are ways to avoid losing your caution fee.
How Far Can You Go With Personalisation?
Some lease agreements are very strict on how much personalisation you are allowed to carry out in your rented apartment while others are particularly flexible. The question is which option best describes yours?
You should never sweep this under the carpet or assume it is something you are entitled to just because you have paid your rent. You’re wrong! That’s not how it works. Before you carry out any personalisation in your apartment, you have to be sure that the lease you signed allows this.
When asking these questions, you need to stretch it by citing examples of the type of modifications and personalisation you might have in mind. For instance, ask the landlord if it is okay to install a window unit Air Conditioning system in your apartment. Of course, you know such an appliance means you have to make a hole in the wall. Ask the landlord if you are allowed to install a split unit AC, which means making a little hole to run the pipes through. The answers provided by your landlord should be covered in the lease agreement else there might be a need to review it before you append your signature to it.
Final Thoughts on Questions to Ask Before Signing the Lease
When you are renting your first apartment, you are more prone to mistakes because, at that point, you are quite vulnerable. It could be the excitement of renting your first apartment or it could just be the fact that you are juggling several balls at the same time.
Asking questions before you sign the lease is a smart way to avoid making uninformed decisions. Remember that you need to read the lease before you ask the questions to avoid a situation where the landlord keeps responding with the line: “It is included in the lease…” Have you any experience dealing with a landlord taking advantage of a tenant’s failure to ask these important questions? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.