The following are some do’s and don’ts for renewing your lease that could save time, money and headaches.
Compare the costs
As the end of your lease approaches, it’s important to consider the cost of renewal versus moving.
Typically, your property manager will share proposed renewal rates with different options that vary by lease length. You may be tempted to move when you see the new rate, but it’s important to remember that a slight raise is standard in response to changing market conditions and cost of living.
Before making any sudden decisions, evaluate the true cost of moving. There may be an apartment across town that posts at a lower rate, but when you consider the cost of a new deposit, utility transfer costs and moving truck fees, among other expenses, you may not be saving money after all.
Keep in mind most operators charge a fee for breaking your lease, so you should carefully consider the lease terms available and, if it’s possible you would move in the next couple of months, you may want to select a shorter term at a higher rate.
Fact check: You’re still signing a new lease
First, it’s important to understand what it means to renew a lease. A lease renewal means that at the end of the lease contract, both the property owner and resident decide to renew the contract for a set amount of time and both sign a new lease.
Because a renewal triggers a new lease, residents should make sure they read the terms of the new lease. It is possible the terms will differ from the original lease. If the community has been acquired or sold to a new property manager — not uncommon in a robust market — the new management company may have different policies. Be sure to verify the new rent rate, additional fees, payment structure and process, lease length and any updated community guidelines.
Note: When a new property manager comes in, they are obligated to fulfill the terms of your original lease until it is completed, but they can introduce their own lease contract when you renew.
Verify the timeline and requirements
One of the biggest mistakes people can make is failing to meet the renewal requirements for staying in their current apartment.
Property managers need notice so they can fill the apartment if you are planning to move out. Most property managers require a 30- or 60-day notice period to renew or move out of the rental unit. Verify this time frame when you first sign your lease, and then set a reminder to talk to your property manager ahead of that time.
Typically, property managers will get in touch with you to share options ahead of the renewal window and may even send several reminders, but it’s up to you to stay on top of the timeline and communicate your plans.
Residents may assume their lease will auto-renew for the same rate and length unless they notify their property manager otherwise, but that is not normally the case. Typically, if you do not renew or notify your property manager of other plans, your lease will renew at the month-to-month rate. This is because the property manager needs to be able to guarantee a certain amount of rent to keep the apartment stable and without a set contract, there’s greater risk for them that you could suddenly move out, leaving the apartment vacant.
Update your resident profile information
It may seem obvious, but people change contact information all the time without updating their property manager.
Verify that your apartment community has the correct information on file, considering questions such as: Who is your emergency contact? Have you changed your phone number or email in the last few months? Who has permission to access your apartment? Do you have a dog walker? Do you have a new vehicle you need to register?
It’s also important to be proactive about communicating more significant changes, such as adding or losing a roommate, or adopting a new pet. While pet policies will vary by property manager and community, some communities charge a pet fee and have limits on pet types and breeds. You should notify your property manager of these changes as soon as they happen, but if you haven’t, renewal is a good opportunity to reset.
When your lease renewal time comes, exploring your options is never a bad idea — but you may realize that your current apartment has truly come to feel like home, or it’s truly the best option on the market, or you simply want to avoid the hassle of moving. Whatever your reason, whether you decide to renew or sign a new lease, know your non-negotiables, consider how your lifestyle has evolved and what place is best suited to your needs, read your lease carefully and communicate with your property manager.
Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, based in Arlington, Va.
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