6 essential things to do before signing a lease

June 07, 2022

Essential things to do before signing a lease

Imagine this scenario, after house hunting and filling rental applications for weeks, you find the perfect place. Several months after moving in, you realize the unit isn’t as great as you initially thought. The HVAC system is faulty, your electric bill is higher than expected, and the landlord has a no repainting policy. Are you looking to avoid that reality? You’re on the right track. Most property management companies, like Bay Property Management Group Washington DC encourages tenants to review terms and ask questions before signing the lease. Thus, in this post, we’ll reveal 6 essential things to crosscheck before committing to a new house.

What is a lease agreement?

A lease agreement is a rental contract that details the terms under which a landlord leases their property to a tenant. It outlines the parties involved, the purpose of renting the property, and payment details. Leases are standard in long-term rental arrangements lasting six months to a year.

It is a legally binding document. Thus, both parties must take it seriously. If either person violates the outlined terms, they expose themselves to legal consequences.

Common clauses that are included in a lease

Common clauses that you usually included in a lease

Early termination clause

An early termination clause defines the terms for leaving a lease agreement if either party is unhappy. For instance, if you’re not satisfied with the conditions of your apartment, such a clause gives you grounds to end the contract and seek alternative accommodation. It often dictates how many days or weeks’ notice you have to give your landlord before moving.

Severability clause

Sometimes an illegal addition to a contract can render it void. However, a severability clause retains the validity of an agreement, even when there’s a flawed addition. Of course, that doesn’t mean it upholds the illegal clause; it keeps the rest of the document intact.

Subletting clause

Another clause you might run into specifies the rules for subleasing. Most landlords have a strict no-subletting policy, while others are more flexible. If they allow it, it will dictate if you can use the property as an Airbnb, the minimum and maximum stay, and any security deposit you must collect.

Renewal clause

A renewal clause often dictates how much time and through what manner a tenant should inform their landlord if they intend to renew. In other words, before your lease expires, you might have to write a formal notice to specify your intentions of staying.

6 essential things to do before signing

Key things that you need to remember to do before signing your lease.

Perform an Inspection

One of the first things you should do before moving into any property is to conduct an inspection. Thanks to modern technology, landlords can offer you virtual showing options. However, it would be best to ask for physical viewing. A live assessment of the unit allows you to scan the apartment yourself for flaws and damage. 

You must take time to evaluate the inside and outside. Indoors it would help if you looked at the flooring, paint, fixtures, and furniture. Outdoors, check the garage, gutters, and walkways. If you encounter any problems, speak with the property owner about making repairs before move-in day.

Verify what rent covers

Besides the tour, you should also discuss what rent covers. Rental agreements often differ on a case-by-case basis. Thus, it would help if you didn’t make any assumptions. Ask what specific utilities the landlords will cover and which are your responsibility. For instance, some property owners might cover only the electric bill, while water, gas, and Wi-Fi are on you. Others, especially vacation rentals, could cover it all. 

Also, inquire if there are hidden fees outside the rent. Some leases make it mandatory for tenants to pay maintenance, parking, or estate fees besides their monthly rent.

Find out the building policies

Another essential thing to do is find out the building policies. Although landlord-tenant laws would grant you ownership rights, landlords still have some say on what goes on in the house. Discuss specific rules with the property owner about their policies on pets, smoking, and customizations. 

If their regulations don’t sit right with you, you should reconsider leasing the property. The last thing you want is to end up in a year-long agreement you’re not satisfied with.

Note late payment penalties

Whether finances are a concern for you or not, you should note late payment penalties. Inquire from your landlord about their grace periods and extra fees for delayed rent. Unfortunately, some property owners try to exploit renters that are already in a bad financial situation by making them pay unreasonable fees. 

Read the lease agreement

Another essential thing to do is read the lease agreement before signing. This step might be discouraging to many renters, but it is one of the most crucial. You should be on the lookout for illegal clauses, and if you’re not familiar with federal and state laws, you can consult a legal expert. 

Once you’ve clearly understood the lease and are satisfied with the terms, you can sign it. However, discuss them with the property owner if you’re unhappy with some clauses. They might be willing to make certain concessions if you make a good argument.

Communicate your expectations

Finally, it would help if you communicated your expectations to your landlord. A rental agreement is a mutual arrangement. After all, they’re not providing living accommodations for free, so your satisfaction is essential. Make it clear what type of neighborhood you prefer, any concerns you have, and how they can make your move easier.


A lease is legally binding between a landlord and their tenant. Thus, you must follow these 6 essential things to do before signing a lease. Inspections and communication are vital in ensuring that your potential home is right for you. If the landlord is unavailable, feel free to reach out to the property manager.

More must-read stories from Enterprise League:

Related Articles