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November 30, 2017 |

Is This Lease Fair?

What to Look for Before Signing a Lease Agreement

When you sign a lease, you are signing a contract. This means you and the landlord agree to abide by all terms contained within the document. Therefore, before you sign, read the lease carefully and make sure you understand the terms. If you are uncomfortable with any of the provisions, you should negotiate the terms, walk away from the contract or seek the advice of an experienced Boston tenant lawyer. Here is an overview of the provisions typically contained in a lease and some red flags to watch for.

Location, Dates, Term and Rent Amount

Usually the first section of a lease contains a description of the property, dates the rental period begins and ends, and the amount of rent that is due each month. Review the address and description. Is that the unit you agreed to rent? Is the backyard area included as you had discussed? Are gas, heat, utilities, water or other utilities included in the lease?

Check the dates carefully, too, to be sure you are not inadvertently agreeing to a shorter or longer period than intended. For example, if you expect to be in the apartment on July 1, make sure the lease reflects that date. Most leases also provide a due date for rent each month and penalties to be paid on late rent. Look out for unreasonable demands on payment date and late fees.

Security Deposits

A typical lease requires first and last months rents and a security deposit. What are these payments for and what can they not be used for?

First and last months rent is exactly what it purports to be. You are paying the landlord the first month rent in advance of moving in and you have now covered the last month of your lease ahead of time.

The lease should provide some details about the purpose of the security deposit. The security deposit usually covers unpaid rents and destruction of the property, including furnishings and outdoor spaces if included in your lease. The security deposit cannot be used for normal wear and tear, general maintenance of the building or to repair problems not created by the tenant. Any security funds not used for legal purposes must be returned to the tenant upon expiration of the lease.

Pets Policies

Commonly, landlords require their pet-owning tenants to sign a pet addendum to the lease. The addendum will likely contain rules for keeping a pet on premises that focus on the protection of the property and the wellbeing of other tenants. The landlord may also require you to pay an additional deposit to pay for damages caused by your pet.  

Right to Enter and Covered Repairs

Reasonably, the landlord wants access to the unit with notice to make repairs or in case of an emergency. A provision in the lease should spell out the conditions under which the landlord may enter and the notice the landlord is required to give to you. In most residential leases, the tenant is responsible for taking care of the property and notifying the landlord of problems, while the landlord is responsible for repairs. The provision may, however, hold you responsible for damage you cause.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant Information

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