While they are anything but entertaining, a lease agreement is one contract you really should read before signing. Before an agreement is signed, it is often easy to address specific terms. But, once it is signed, resolving even minor issues can be difficult.
A good lease agreement avoids unwelcome surprises. A landlord and tenant nearly always discuss the rent, when it is due, and the length of the lease term. But, unless the lease agreement makes it clear, there can be disputes over things like who is responsible for repairs, property taxes, and insurance; whether there are any automatic renewals or rent increases; if or when late fees or interest charges apply; and in what situations deductions may be taken from the security deposit.
Concerning repairs, a residential landlord is generally responsible unless the repairs are needed due to the tenant’s carelessness.
With respect to security deposits, the lease should state what is expected of the tenant upon moving out, what will happen if those expectations are not met, and how much of the security deposit will be refunded.
Some lease agreements include options to renew the lease. To avoid having to move again, a tenant may want to negotiate the right to renew at the end of the initial term.
Wise landlords also contact a would-be tenant’s prior landlord for a rental history. Some perform credit checks on all prospective tenants. Likewise, some prudent tenants ask around to neighbors and may even try to contact the prior tenant for information about the property and to find out how responsive the landlord has been to maintenance and repair issues. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, doing your homework before renting or signing can pay big dividends.