It’s a good idea to visit your potential apartment at different times of day to get a sense of your new space before you realize it’s too noisy or dark for you.
Make sure you know the full picture before you move in with all your stuff.
Finding the perfect rental can be a challenging process— scouring listings, cramming multiple viewings into a single day, and feeling like your ideal place is a needle in a haystack. So it’s understandable to quickly pull the trigger when you find that dream home in the perfect neighborhood with a reasonable monthly rent.
But before you sign on the dotted line for the keys to that perfect apartment for rent in Dallas, TX, there are some things to keep in mind. Pay attention to these 8 details, and you’re bound to be a happy camper once you’re all moved in.
8 Steps All Renters Should Take Before Signing a Lease:
- Read the entire lease
Reading your entire lease will help prevent simple problems from popping up. But you can take this one step further and make sure you’re signing the right lease for your city or state. Ordinances vary by city and state, so be sure to call your local government to find out local regulations for landlord-tenant law. Fortunately, there are nonprofit renters’ rights organizations in most major cities, so a quick phone call can help make sure you’re on the right track.
- Remember: It’s a partnership
The landlord-tenant relationship can be friendly, especially if it gets off to a good start. Present yourself well on viewing day and be as polite and professional as you would be for a job interview. They are probably showing the property to many prospective tenants — and you want to stand out in all the right ways. Also remember that as much as your landlord is trusting you with their property, you are trusting them to maintain a safe and healthy living environment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request repairs and note the response. If they’re not willing to hear your concerns or write repairs into the lease, it could foretell problems down the road.
- Visit the apartment at different times of day
Maybe the master bedroom gets gorgeous morning sunlight — but also sits right under a street lamp, throwing off even the best sleeper’s circadian rhythms. (Potential solution: blackout shades!) Visiting a unit more than once and at different hours will help you get a better sense of the space, from changing noise levels to noting the best hours for soaking up the rays. And while it’s not possible to stretch out your visits over multiple seasons, it’s always a good idea to ask the landlord about the apartment under different weather conditions. He or she may be able to prepare you for a loud radiator come winter or give you the scoop on a lifesaving cross-breeze during the summer months.
- Ask about alterations (no matter how small)
Most lease agreements will specify what changes you’re allowed to make to an apartment, but it’s always a good idea, before signing, to get specific. Whether you’re hoping to install patio stones in the backyard or just put some nails in the wall, be sure to bring up those enhancements at the first viewing. Landlords can differ greatly in what customization they will allow; taking it for granted that you can “make your rental home your own” could put your security deposit at risk. And if there are things you feel compromise the safety or integrity of the apartment, have your landlord agree — in writing — to make those repairs.
- Understand the rules for subletting
Subletting can be a great option for renters who might need to move out early. Maybe you’re renting while planning to buy, and your dream home comes along mid-lease, or a job unexpectedly takes you to a new state. Subletting can help you avoid breaking your lease by letting someone else pay out the remaining months — but make sure your landlord allows it or would consider an exception to the rule. Penalties for subletting can range from a hefty fine to eviction, so best to be in the clear before passing off the keys to another renter.
- Ask what’s included (and be clear on what isn’t)
Utilities and other hidden costs can add up if they’re not included in the monthly rent. Even if you determine that the basics like gas and electric come with the rental, be sure to ask about hidden fees like garbage pickup, on-site parking, or monthly pet fees. Or if the property hosts an on-site gym or free laundry, factor those savings into your household budget. If no utilities are included, try to get a ballpark idea of what they might cost and budget accordingly. Asking a neighbor or the previous tenant can help give you an idea of what others spend.
- Talk to your new neighbors
Get to know your neighbors, even before you sign. If they’re in the same building, you can get an expert opinion on the ins and outs of your prospective rental. They can let you know what utilities usually cost, weigh in on the dependability of your landlord or property management company, and tell you what to expect from the neighborhood. Ask how long they’ve lived in their apartment: It’s a good sign if your neighbor has found reason to renew their yearly lease. Neighbors can be good for so much more than a borrowed cup of sugar!
- Have your papers in order
Competitive rental markets like New York, NY, and San Francisco, CA, often see many qualified candidates vying for the same apartment. In these cases, the most crucial thing you can do before signing a lease is to be 100% prepared. Having your paperwork ready to go with your application will expedite the process and increase your chances of signing that lease.
Is there anything you wish you’d asked a landlord before signing on the dotted line?