It’s important to understand your lease and the leasing process.
Here are a few things to know before you rent your new place.
You should be prepared to provide information and verification regarding your job, income, and past credit and rental history (see credit score). Property managers may require you to provide your social security number, references, driver license or government ID, and addresses of where you have lived in the past. Applications will differ between property management companies and there is usually a fee to apply and to conduct a credit check. This credit check will search background on civil and criminal information. Application fees are generally non-refundable so it is a good idea to know what the fee and qualifications are in advance.
Housing Provider (Landlord, Property Manager)
A landlord or property manager is an individual or a business who rents or leases property for money to another party. Property managers have the right to collect rent, and set late fees. They also have the right to raise the rent as defined in the tenant-landlord lease agreement. When tenants do not pay rent, property managers by state law have the right to evict or remove a tenant from the property. The process of eviction varies from state to state and evictions can show up on your credit report in the future. Property managers are responsible for maintaining their rental properties in a habitable condition, and to rightfully manage security deposits. The property manager must follow all local and pertinent state laws, ordinances, building codes, perform prompt repairs, and maintain vital services, such as plumbing, electricity, water and heat.
The Resident (Tenant)
The legal term for the renting party is a tenant.
Property managers typically provide the necessary maintenance or repairs during the time frame stated in the lease, while the tenant is responsible for the cleanliness and general upkeep of the property and other responsibilities stated in the lease.
Leases are legal agreements outlining the responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord. Before you sign a lease you should take the time to read the agreement. It’s important that parties on both sides of the lease understand their responsibilities and rights.
Your lease should include the monthly amount for rent, the due date for payment, methods of acceptable payment, allowable grace period for late payment and amounts and timeframe of late fees. There usually isn’t much negotiating ability when it comes to leases, but you should ask if there are any concessions, promotions or discounts available.
Check for the following in your Lease:
Maximum occupancy, quiet hours, rules on overnight guests, access for maintenance personnel, parking and storage fees, non-smoking policies, right to enter, renters insurance requirements and eviction policies.
The Property Details
The lease should include basic facts about the rental property, including the physical address and the property manager’s name, address and contact information. It should also state the date the lease was signed; the start and end dates of the rental period; and options for renewal, including policies for any rent increases. If any appliances are in the unit such as an oven, refrigerator or clothes washer or dryer, or if the unit is furnished, that should be included in the lease, too.
Deposit and Fees
Aside from rent there may be other costs such as deposits and fees that should be noted in the lease. Security deposits and any fees, including late fees, fees for parking or pets should be clearly stated in the lease with conditions for getting your deposit back when you leave the property. If you do not receive your security deposit back, without explanation, contact your landlord. If you do not hear back, you have the right to make a claim under small claims court. More information can be found here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=9\
Property inspections before moving in are common to assess and record the condition of the property and make sure plumbing, door locks and windows are in working order. Document existing damage in the lease or in a provided form and keep a copy of this with your contract. It is a good idea to take videos or photos for documentation.
The lease should indicate policies regarding utilities and billing. Some property managers will pay for electric, water and sewer services, while the tenant is responsible for paying for the cable and internet service. Be sure to find out if any utilities are included as part of your monthly rent and whether you or the property management company is responsible for to utility payments
Maintenance and Repairs
Generally, the property manager is responsible for taking care of all repairs and maintenance – whether it’s a leaky faucet or a broken air conditioner. In some situations, the landlord might repair or replace only major appliances but leave the tenant responsible for everything else. When a maintenance issue does arise it is important for the tenant to request the repair in writing. There may also be stipulations about the maintenance of the yard or outside areas. Be sure you are clear on who is responsible for service calls and payment.
Property managers and their contractors or maintenance personnel cannot enter the renter’s place without notice, unless there is an emergency (such as a fire or gas leak), or if the property manager has reason to believe the tenant has left or abandoned the property or if there is a court order.
Rent increases should be stated in the lease. Rent increases during the lease term could be due to a new tenant joining the household, a new pet, or if the landlord significantly remodels the property.
Property management companies may be able to increase rent if the property is located in a city with rent-controlled or rent-stabilized ordinances that allow for these changes in the rent amount due. Check your city ordinances for information.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits property managers from refusing to rent to a prospective tenant based on race, color, national origin, sex, familial status or handicap. For example, property managers cannot ask your race, ethnicity or national origin, religious beliefs, if you have children, or mental or physical disabilities.
A property manager may choose to not accept pets. Service animals and emotional support animals may need to be verified. Read the lease to find out if animals are allowed and whether there are any size or breed-specific restrictions. Local ordinances may prohibit certain dog breeds, so it’s important to check ordinances in your City.
You might be required to pay additional rent or a “pet deposit”. The “pet fee” may be nonrefundable because it is used for treating the space after you leave to shampoo and deodorize the unit. If the lease contains a no-pets clause and you violate it, the property manager may have the right to proceed with eviction.
The property manager’s insurance does not cover the tenant. The tenant is often required to insure their own property against fire, theft, and water damage which protects you if you are sued for negligence in the event a bathtub or sink overflowing and damaging the apartment below or in case of a fire.
Showing the Apartment when the Lease is Up
It’s not uncommon to see a provision in your lease to show your apartment to prospective residents near the end of your lease. Terms of the showings should be agreed upon in advance.
If you need to “break” the lease and leave before the date the lease ends, the lease should explain how much notice is required for that situation. The lease should also state options, penalties and fees in the event that you need to move out before the term of the lease expires. Some leases allow for subletting the property and some do not.