As we approach spring, the pace of the rental market picks up.
Apartments are rented in a shorter time frame and prices are on the rise. People often panic, rushing through signing a lease to secure a home before someone else gets it.
Many people sign it without reading it all the way through, which is never a good idea. There are many clauses in leases that you should know about and understand. Violating these requirements because you weren’t aware of them can cost you money.
Here are some common clauses and requirements that tenants often neglect:
• You are prohibited from letting anyone not on the lease to move into the unit and adding anyone to the lease without the landlord’s approval.
This is something you should know about because there is likely a penalty in your lease for subletting. It is also always better to get the landlord to approve anyone you want added to the lease. Adding another person to the lease makes all parties jointly responsible for the rent and any damages to the home purposefully done during the term of that lease. It is also good to have any person go through the same approval process you did to qualify as a renter so that you are certain that additional person you have on the lease is able to be financially responsible for their portion of the rent.
• Personal property left behind after you move out that the owner has to remove can end up costing you a portion of your security deposit.
If the landlord has to hire someone to remove any items left behind, they can take the cost of that out of your security deposit. It will typically cost you less to have any items removed at the time of your move than it will for the landlord to hire someone to haul the items away.
• Not reporting a needed repair to a landlord in a timely manner can make a tenant liable for further damages to the property caused by neglect of the necessary repair.
Not reporting something that needs to be fixed to a landlord immediately can sometimes cause additional damage to the property that you will likely be responsible for. Here are a few examples: A small leak in a bathroom can become a larger leak that can cause damage to the tiles in the bathroom. A small leak from a kitchen faucet can turn into a larger leak that might end up causing damage to the floors or cabinets. If a dishwasher does not function, not using the dishwasher rather getting it fixed can cause seals to dry up, which can cause a leak. A small leak in the ceiling can get bigger and cause more damage to the paint and the floors.
It is always better to get a problem solved sooner rather than later to avoid causing more damage to the property.
• The cost of cleaning a rental home can be taken out of your security deposit if you have not cleaned the home upon moving out.
The cleaning person of the landlord’s choosing might cost you more money than you or the cleaning person of your choice will charge. The landlord can take this out of your security deposit.
• You should do a walk through before move in to note the move-in condition and take pictures of the home, with the date on them, so you do not get blamed for damage you did not cause.
It is best to make sure everything is in working order before your lease starting or on the day of move-in. You don’t want to get blamed for damages the prior tenants have caused. All appliances should be in working order, so you want to make sure they are all functioning. Many landlords will charge a repair deductible each time they send a contractor to fix something in the home. You don’t want to have to pay a repair deductible or possibly be responsible for damage to the property that occurred during someone else’s lease term.
• Many leases require professional carpet cleaning to be conducted upon move out. If you do not have this done, the cost of a carpet cleaning can be taken out of your security deposit.
If a carpet cleaning is required, typically you will need to provide a receipt for that carpet cleaning. It is always best for you to have the chance to choose the carpet cleaner to control the cost.
• If a lease requires that you have the gutters cleaned and you don’t clean the gutters, you can be liable for any damage caused to the property as a result of negligence.
If the gutters are not cleaned, blockages can cause flooding or leaking in the home. That can cause damage floors and basement walls, and that can all be very expensive.
Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.