10 Things to Do Before Signing that Apartment Lease

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Jul 08, 2016

Signing an apartment lease is making a commitment for the next (most likely) twelve months. Typically, getting out of a lease before your end date is nearly impossible, and some landlords don’t allow subletting. So before you legally bind yourself to a contract, make sure to take the time to check everything out.


Signing an apartment lease is making a commitment for the next (most likely) twelve months. Typically, getting out of a lease before your end date is nearly impossible, and some landlords don’t allow subletting. So before you legally bind yourself to a contract, make sure to take the time to check everything out.

Get Everything in Writing.

Undoubtedly, if it is not in writing, consider it non-existent. If the landlord says he is going to replace the carpet before you move in, make sure it is in the contract. A document holds up way better in court over spoken words. No matter how nice the landlord may seem, it is better to be safe than sorry and ask for it in writing.

Community Policies.

Are you allowed to have a raging party with 30 people until 2:00 a.m.? Or is there a quiet policy starting at 10:00 p.m. and a maximum of 12 people in the apartment at a time? Knowing your community policies allows you to coexist with other tenants peacefully, have a good relationship with your landlord, and lessens your chance of an eviction.

Lease Termination Policies.

Should you get a job offer in another city or state, make sure to know ahead of time what your landlord’s policy is on early termination of the lease. Some places will require you to finish paying out; others may have some price to end your contract early. It is different everywhere. You just don’t want to find out the termination price is $3,000 when you have five days to move to a new city and start your new job.

Pre-existing Damage.

Say the tile in the kitchen has chips in it when you are doing your walk-through. That damage existed before you moved in, and you should not lose your security deposit for someone else’s damage. Some apartments may have you fill out a condition report when you move in and they will then use that form to evaluate the apartment after you move out, while other apartments may ask that you report those problems. Personally, to be safe rather than sorry, I would take pictures with a time and date stamp on the photos of any damage and the apartment as a whole before moving in. You can find apps in the app store that will put the date and time stamp on the photo. In a year you won’t remember if that burn on the stove was caused by you or the person before. It all blurs together after a while.

What’s Included?

Make sure you know what’s included in the rent you are paying every month. Is it simply just the apartment and no utilities, or does it include any of the following: water, electric, garbage, or cable? Knowing what you are getting for the rent each month allows you to not only compare apartments better, but allows you to budget for other costs.

Pet Policies

Now I have a cat, and I would never give up my cat to live in an apartment that did not allow pets. That being said, if you have a pet or are seriously considering one in the near future, make sure your apartment allows pets. You don’t want to sign the contract only to find upon moving in that your four-legged friend must find a new home.


I have seen it again and again; people find the “perfect” apartment outside of the city for a beautiful price, but they work in the heart of the city. While their rent may be cheaper, they now have to drive over an hour both ways in traffic to get to work. That not only wastes your time but also wastes your money on transportation. Always keep your work location and other favorite destinations (grocery store) in mind when choosing a place to live. Personally, I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of extra time in my car after work when I could be home spending time with my family and friends.

Automatic Lease Renewal

In college, I never came across an apartment that had automatic lease renewal. This is probably the case since college students are always moving around after a school year. Whether to internships, back home, or off to real world jobs, having an automatic lease renewal would not be beneficial. However, apartments not directed at college students could have this since once out of college, individuals typically move less frequently. If you find this is the case in the complex you are looking at, mark it down in your calendar, in red. Typically, a tenant needs to give 30-days notice on whether they plan to renew or not.  

Pest Control

If you love creepy crawly creatures in your apartment, then this may not be a concern to you. However, if you’re like me and think seeing one spider means a whole colony is hiding somewhere in your apartment, then asking about who takes care of pest control is important. Some apartments spray once a year and others do it more frequently. If you have a pet, you’ll want to ask about this so you know when you need to keep your pet out of the bushes. Because I really do not like bugs, I bought an all-natural pest spray that isn’t harmful to children or pets, so I could take precaution. I do not want to see even one little spider in my apartment, so I have sprayed all around my windows and the perimeters of my rooms. No bugs are coming into my apartment!

Notice Before Entering Apartments

The lease should include a lot of important topics, but it should also include how and when you will be notified about management entering your apartment. A couple days’ notice would be best, but typically the rule is at least 24 hours’ notice. This is a good question to ask ahead of time, unless you like to be awakened to someone pounding on your door, yelling “maintenance.”

As with every important contract you sign, reading the contract closely and asking questions will help make sure that you are not missing anything important. It also allows you to know and understand the rules to be a successful tenant, and that makes your landlord happy. Many individuals don’t realize that if you move to a different complex, your old landlord can have an effect on whether or not your application is accepted. Landlords like to know how you are as a tenant and may reach out to your old landlord to find out. Be respectful of others, and it’ll help you in the long run.

On top of being respectful of others, respect your personal property by getting renters insurance to give you peace of mind should something happen to your belongings. Click here to find out how Pekin Insurance can help you protect your belongings. Don’t be caught with nothing; have a way to regain what was lost.


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