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What To Look For In The Lease

The first thing you should look at in the lease is what you are responsible for versus what the landlord is reponsible for. You should look for things like:

  • Who is responsible for utilities (I’ve never been lucky enough to live somewhere that paid my utilities in full)
  • Who removes snow and ice
  • Who mows or keeps up the lawn

The second thing is how much rent is, what penalties that can result in additional rental costs, and late fees. So, let’s say your rent is $900 a month (this is standard for a three-bedroom in my city). But if your rent is due on the first of every month, which is the most common arrangement, but you pay late on the fifth and your lease states there is a $30 charge for each day rent is unpaid after the first of the month. Then, legally, you are obligated to pay those late fees. This, again, is a very common practice put in place to deter tenants from paying their rent late. However, it is something you should be aware of. Another fee you need to look for in your lease is a pet fee (if allowed). Our pet fee is an extra $50 a month as long as our dog lives on the property. Pet fees along with an extra pet deposit are utilized because if you have a dog the home or apartment may have damage from them.

The third thing you need to look for is how much, if any, insurance coverage you need. I personally use Geico. This is simply because my car insurance is through them. I know a lot of other companies offer renter’s insurance. It is a good idea to have even if your landlord does not require it. My insurance is relatively cheap. I pay $200 a year to cover our rental which is a three bedroom house. Your landlord may require you to carry a certain amount of liability coverage. Make sure you purchase that amount or over that amount. Your insurance company will ask for your landlord’s information and will send them a letter certifying your coverage.

Are You Paying Too Much? & Renter’s Insurance

Honestly, if you live in a city you probably are paying too much for such a little space. I live in Western Pennsylvania so my rental costs are not even comparable to big cities like Chicago or New York. It is, however, relatively comparable to cities like Buffalo and Pittsburgh. The best way to know if you are getting the best bang for your buck is to simply shop around. When you go to view rental properties, don’t tell the landlord that it’s the only property you’re interested in. They are essentially trying to sell it to you. They want that free $1000 a month. Make them think you have something else going on. My boyfriend always made fun of me for saying this but I would always ask after viewing the property with the landlord, “Okay, so what do you require from us.” The way they answered this question told me a lot about what kind of landlord they will be. This is extremely important as well. I personally need a landlord that leaves me alone 99% of the time but if something is wrong with the property I need a response within 24 hours. It also tells you what kind of application process it will be. Some landlords are the “show me the money” type and some are the “I need thirty dollars for a background and credit check type.”


Then, you apply to rent the property. For this you will need proof of income (so pay stubs or bank statements), the fee for your credit check, the addresses of your past residences, emergency contact information, and your references. After the property manager or landlord reviews these items they will decide whether or not they will allow you to live there. If accepted, you will be sent the lease to look over and sign.

Reading the Lease

I really mean this. READ EVERY PAGE. Some may disagree with me. But most leases are for a year. You do not want to be miserable for a year just because you didn’t read your lease and were not on the same page as your landlord. Your landlord may require you to initial each page — so you may as well read each page. After reading and understanding your lease sign it and return it. Do not return a signed lease when you still have questions about the lease.

Now, you are a renter! The free checklist below is incredibly helpful in simplifying the process. Make sure you grab it!

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