What to Look For on Your Apartment Lease

While it’s exciting to move into a new apartment, clear terms within your lease will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on the fun part, such as decorating your place and starting your life in your new home.

You’ve finally found your dream apartment and are ready to move in. As wonderful of a feeling it is, don’t overlook the conditions within your lease contract. Although leasing is temporary, it’s easy to ignore issues that might seem minor at the time of signing but can create problems later. Here are some factors you should look for in your apartment lease papers before signing the dotted line.

Overall Condition of the Apartment

You’re going to take a quick look at the apartment, but you probably won’t have enough time to do a thorough inspection. It is essential to ask the owner about the working condition of the appliances and utilities within the apartment and discuss any pre-existing damages that will need repair. 

Also, ensure the doors, windows, and light fixtures are working correctly. Once the lease papers are signed, any damages and repairs found later are the renter’s responsibility. 

Who Pays for Utilities and Maintenance?

Some apartment owners take care of the maintenance costs and include utility costs within the rent amount. Whereas others only pay for maintenance and let renters pay for utilities according to their use. Either way, your contract should clearly mention who pays for what and if the rental amount is adjusted accordingly. 

Look out for the following:

  • Utility services
  • Repairs (often the landlord will not pay over a specific amount, and you’ll have to pay the rest)
  • Pest Control
  • Snow removal and lawn maintenance (if applicable)

Can you Share and Sublet?

It’s common for people to have roommates (sometimes to share rental costs), but not everyone is comfortable with the idea. Even if your landlord does allow roommates, at the time you move in, it won’t necessarily be the case if your roommate/s move out and you’d want someone else to move in. Make sure your lease indicates the apartment sharing policy. 

The same applies to subletting. Under circumstances that you need to stay in another city or country for an extended period or want to move elsewhere before the contract ends, look for the rules that apply.

Pet Policy

Inform your landlord if you have any pet/s and check for a related clause in the lease contract. Some people will happily allow pets for extra monthly charges as pet rent or deposit. The only issue (if any) will be the size and amount of pets. Never try to sneak in a pet as it can result in a hefty fine, pet removal, or in some cases, eviction for keeping an unauthorized pet

Is Parking Included?

In urban areas where most apartment buildings have condos, parking can be a real challenge if you own more than one vehicle. Generally, the rental amount includes a monthly parking fee for one lot. It’s important to discuss beforehand where you’ll be parking the other vehicles. Ask your landlord about on-street parking laws and alternative parking spaces for when it’s snowing. 

Terms of Lease Termination

Whether you move out due to relocation or any other reason, knowing your lease ending terms will only make the process easier. Watch out for the following in your contract:

  • The number of months for the notice period
  • If a fixed amount will be deducted from your security deposit (like costs for cleaning, repainting, or any pet fees)?
  • Necessary cleaning (some lease contracts only require a broom clean, but it’s better to ask to stay on the safe side)
  • When will you get back your security deposit?

If you want to leave before your lease contract ends, it usually calls for a penalty of two months in which you’ll need to surrender two months of rent to the landlord. This gives the landlord enough time to find new tenants while you still pay rent. 

Under stricter policies, the landlord might require you to submit all the remaining amount as a penalty. It’s wise to discuss these issues and come to terms before you move in. 


While it’s exciting to move into a new apartment, clear terms within your lease will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on the fun part, such as decorating your place and starting your life in your new home. 


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