Renter Tools / Understanding the Rental Agreement
The Rental Agreement or many times referred to as a lease is a binding, legal agreement that you enter into when renting from a property manager or owner.
Before signing any agreement you should review it carefully. If you have any questions seek legal advice before signing. Once you have signed the agreement you are legally responsible for fulfilling its terms. The agreement will include the names of the tenants, property owner or landlord. The amount of rent owed, when it is due and where you are to pay. It will reflect any security deposit and where it is being held, the length of the rental period, and itemize what utilities are not included. The rental agreement will also spell out all the tenant’s responsibilities, duties and or restrictions. Each and every rental agreement may be different so always read it carefully.
Basic Components of the Rental Agreement
The names of every individual who will be residing in the unit should be listed on the rental agreement as tenants. Those who are not responsible for any financial obligations will be listed as occupants only. If damages occur or rent is late, the property manager will pursue a settlement from only those individuals named as the tenants. Therefore, it is in your best interest to ensure that all people who are not dependants, who will be living in the dwelling, are recognized as tenants.
The amount of rent that you will be paying each month, when it is due and where and to whom you should be paying it to should be clearly spelled out in the rental agreement. It should also address when the rent is considered late and if any additional fees would apply.
Amount of Security Deposit
Most property managers will also require you to pay a security deposit to cover any damages that occur as a result of your tenancy and also to ensure faithful compliance to the terms and conditions of the rental agreement. The amount of the security deposit is determined by the property manager. The rental agreement should define how the security deposit is being held and what your responsibilities are to be eligible to receive all or some of it back.
The length of your rental agreement may be anything from month-to-month, toa year or longer. This should be determined when you become interested in the property. Once you sign the rental agreement you will be responsible for fulfilling entire term, unless the agreement provides a termination clause. A termination clause sometimes gives you the ability to terminate the lease for a predetermined fee.
Any utilities and services (ie:pest control, lawn care, pool care, etc.) provided by the landlord should be clearly defined in the rental agreement. If nothing is listed , the tenant may be expected to pay for any utilities or services.
If you have a pet or are thinking about getting one in the future, make sure that pets are welcome in the property. Many rental properties may not accept pets, while others may have size and breed restrictions for dogs, require you to carry pet insurance, require and additional deposit or demand a "pet fee" over and above your monthly rent.
Other items you want to pay close attention to are maintenance and repairs. What are you responsible for taking care of and what is the landlord’s responsibility? Who do you contact if you do have a problem? In addition, you will want to know if there are any restrictions, community or otherwise, that are part of the rental agreement?
Before signing any rental agreement, make sure you read it carefully and understand what it means. If you do not understand something, seek legal advice. Once you have signed the agreement you have legally bound yourself to the terms and conditions.