So, you've found yourself a potential housing option and you are on the verge of making everything legally arranged. What do you do? There are many things you need to keep in mind when entering into a rental agreement. Below is a list of basic principles that everyone entering into one should consider, as well as links that will take you to the University of St. Thomas' website, which has valuable information on inspections, deposits, lease-signing, and clauses to watch out for.
Basic Principles for Entering into a Rental Agreement
1. Read, Read, and Read Again! You should know exactly what it is that you are agreeing to. Do not sign or verbally enter into an agreement without being fully familiar with it.
2. If there's something you don't understand, ask. Do not assume things will be cleared up over time, or expect that your landlord will explain specifics without you asking.
3. Have a list of questions ready and make sure they are answered satisfactorily before you sign anything. Consider any future needs that may arise and understand your landlord's stance on subletting, repairs, etc. For a comprehensive list of questions you should ask your landlord, click here.
4. Keep very thorough records. You should keep a file with very clear reciepts, transactions, agreements, documents, timelines, etc. Think ahead- if something goes wrong or there is a miscommunication, will you have enough documentation to show legitimate records of your rental agreement?
5. On that note, don't be shy to take pictures or put even the most basic of verbal agreements into writing. Make sure inspections are thorough and you can prove what damages or need for repairs existed before you became a tenant.
(Landlords are not all waiting to exploit situations, but there is no harm in keeping yourself protected!)