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Actually Read Your Lease Terms — Some Sage Advice for First Time Renters

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Renting your first apartment is an exciting time in life. Getting out from under parental authority and signing your own lease are major steps into freedom and independence. With such newfound empowerment comes great responsibility. After all, it’s a legal agreement. That being said, read through the thing in its entirety. It’s not exactly a page-turner, but any missed detail could mean money out of your pocket at the end of your leasing term.

Before you put down that deposit and first and last month’s rent, consider these questions. If you’re unsure of the answer to any of them, look through the lease again, and don’t be afraid to clarify with the landlord:

Rent Payment

How much do you owe at signing and each month after?
On what date is rent due?
Is there a fee for a late rent payment?
What is the length of the lease, and what are the terms for lease termination? Do you lose your deposit? Do you lose last month’s rent?
If the lease allows pets, is there an additional fee?

Utilities

Are utility payments included in the rent payment? If not, you’ll have to call each utility company to get the bills in your name (or your roommate’s). If you’d like more information on what you’ll likely spend on water, gas, and electric each month, you can call the utility company and inquire. They’ll tell you, based on what the previous tenant was paying, what you’re likely to pay during your time there. And, if you’re income eligible, some utility companies will find a payment plan that can work for you.

Tenant Responsibilities

Do you have to keep up on yard work? If so, to what extent?
Will you be the one changing the furnace filter every three months?
When the sidewalks ice over, is it your duty to lay ice down and scrape them clean?
Is it your job to handle pest management?
If your sink, dishwasher, stove, toilet, etc. is broken, do you call on your landlord or a repairperson?
Once the lease is up, do you lose some of your deposit for any screw or nail holes? (If so, grab some spackle and ask your landlord what paint color to brush over with. Repairing it yourself will always be cheaper.)

Tenant Rights

Not so much questions, these are more items you’re entitled to as a lessee.
Your landlord owes you an inspection prior to signing the lease agreement.
Hot and cold running water are a given, as is heat.
Privacy is key. Your landlord doesn’t have the right to stop in unannounced (must give 24 hours advance notice), change the locks, or remove doors or windows.

Landlord Rights

The landlord may evict you for failure to pay rent, any lease violation, and after the lease agreement has expired.
Any violated health and safety codes can result in eviction as well.
The landlord has the right to enter the property, as long as at least 24 hours notice is given.
After the lease is up, the landlord can bill you for any damages. (They may not bill you for work they do, but for hired help only.)

These are the basics to have covered before placing your signature on that legally binding contract. And, if you’re planning on having any roommates, it’s important to verify that they’re all on the same page and have considered all the terms as thoroughly as you have. Not many things are less fun than small claims court.

For more information on your rights as a tenant or the rights of your landlord, visit ohiobar.org.

This article is presented by Hometeam Property Management, Columbus, Ohio. Hometeam has one of the largest selections of single-family homes for rent in The Ohio State University district. All of our homes are newly or recently remodeled with hardwood floors, porches, decks, security systems and much more! Outside the campus area, we also own and manage multiple single-family homes and Luxury apartments around the Columbus area, including in German Village, Hilliard, Dublin, Grandview and Reynoldsburg. For more information, visit www.hometeamproperties.net.

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