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Ready to Sign a Lease

Questions To Ask When You Are Getting Ready To Sign A Lease


Once you sign the lease, how much money does the landlord require up front?

  • Are you required to pay a security deposit? If so, how much is the security deposit and when is it due?
    • Typically a security deposit is equivalent to one month's rent.
  • When is the first month's rent due?
    • Some landlords ask for the first month's rent when signing the lease.
  • When is rent due each month? Where do I send it? How do I pay rent? (check, money order, etc.)
    • NEVER pay rent in cash, and always get a receipt after paying rent.
  • Are there any late fee charges for late rent?

What condition will the unit be in when it is time to move-in?

  • Will the walls be re-painted?
  • Will the carpets be steam-cleaned or replaced?
  • Will the locks be changed?
  • Will all damages to the unit be repaired prior to the start of the lease?
REMEMBER: Put all agreements in writing prior to signing the lease.

Is there a "Joint and Several Liability" clause in the lease?

  • Most leases do, which means each individual tenant can be held responsible for the entire lease amount. Make sure you trust that all your roommates will pay their share of the rent on time each month, otherwise you may be held responsible.
  • If you will be signing a lease with others, it would be very beneficial to sign a Roommate Contract (PDF document).

Does the landlord allow subleases?

  • If yes, do they require written permission?
  • Make sure the remaining roommates are comfortable having your room sublet.
  • Make sure to sign a Sublease Contract (PDF document).

Does the landlord allow pets?

  • Are there any restrictions on what type of pets are allowed in the unit?
  • Is there any weight limit for dogs?
  • Is there an additional monthly rent for having a pet?
  • Is a pet deposit required?
  • If so, is the deposit refundable?

Make sure you are guaranteed and get the actual unit you signed your lease for.

  • Make sure you do not just view a model apartment, but you make sure to view the actual unit you are signing the lease for.

Make sure you are guaranteed to be available and ready the first day of the lease term.

  • What time can you pick up your house keys on the first day of the lease?
  • Where do you pick up your house keys?

Is the landlord willing to do a walk-through with you the first day of the lease to make sure all damages have been repaired and the unit is in a satisfactory condition?

  • If they are willing to do so, set up a date and time.  If they are not willing to do a walk though with you, you may want to consider a different location to live.
  • Make sure to fill out a Move-In Checklist prior to moving in.

What utilities are the tenants responsible for paying?
Note: Tenants are typically responsible for paying the electric and gas bills. Landlords often pay the water bill, but they have a right to charge tenants for this if that is their policy.

  • If you are going to be living in one of multiple units in a house, how does the landlord determine your share of the bills?       If the apartment has multiple units, the landlord cannot estimate the usage of utilities, there must be some way to prove the usage of each unit.  If the landlord is estimating charges for utilities, they are in violation of the Railroad Commission rules.
  • If the landlord is responsible for paying the heating bill, at what temperature will they keep the heat (if they are in fact in control of the thermostat).
  • If the landlord pays for any utility, they cannot bill the tenant for any taxes, franchise fees, etc associated with that utility.
  • Many landlords do include a basic fee for water, but the fees should and can be negotiated as to the usage amount billed each month.  Additionally, the landlord cannot change the fee without 30 days prior notice.
    • Example:  If the tenant is in a rear apartment or garage apartment and there is only one meter.  There would be no way to prove how much water the tenant used as opposed to the main house, so the landlord could only give a flat fee and not increase as to the usage unless it was stated in the lease.
REMEMBER: You have every right to request a copy of all utility bills from your landlord.
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