Five Questions to Ask Before Renting This Summer
Article by Josh Guckert
Now that most college semesters have come to an end, many of those college students are beginning to look for housing for next year. Faced with limited options, many simply sign the first lease that they can find, even if it is not in their best interest. With LegalShield, you could be better equipped the next time you are preparing to enter into a new agreement, whether you are the tenant, or, as a parent, the co-signer for your child’s apartment. Call our attorneys so that we can review your leases and give you critical advice before you sign.
Here are five questions to ask the next time you are preparing to rent a new unit:
1. Is there a way out? Most lease agreements do not grant tenants the right to terminate their agreements early. In other words, if you decide that you do not like your place after moving in, you are stuck unless you pay off the remainder of the lease agreement. Be sure to look through the lease and see if there is a “re-let” or “early termination” clause that would allow you to change your mind.
2. Do you trust your roommate? It can be a difficult lesson to learn that a best friend is not the best roommate. Keep in mind that most leases assign “joint and several liability,” meaning each roommate is responsible for the entire amount of the lease. Therefore, if you come to an understanding with your roommate as to how rents and utilities will be split and something happens where one of those payments does not paid, each of you will still be on the hook for the entire amount, and not just your share.
3. Who is responsible for what? While some responsibilities are made apparent from the start, other provisions are in the lease. Who pays for things like lawn work, possible extermination or maintenance? While Pennsylvania law requires landlords to make rental units “habitable,” there is significant gray area. If you need work done, you do not want to be surprised to find that you are responsible to cover the cost. In addition, landlords can keep portions of your security deposit to cover any damages. Make sure to take pictures both when you move in and before you move out. You can also arrange for a walkthrough with the landlord before moving out to avoid deductions.
4. Does your lease automatically renew? When you sign your lease, you can easily pick out its length. However, almost every lease also explains what happens after it ends: it either rolls over into a new lease term or terminates entirely. If you are only planning to stay for one year, make sure to give the required notice to ensure that the lease does not automatically renew. If you miss this deadline, you could get stuck having to pay another year of rent when you no longer want to rent the space.
5. Are you sure that you can follow the house rules? You should familiarize yourself entirely with the landlord’s rules before you move in, and make sure you can plan to abide by them. Many landlords can waive the “Notice to Quit,” which is a posting indicating that you are being evicted. In other words, if the landlord has waived that Notice, and you are in default for non-payment or violating any other term of the lease, the first notice you could get is a letter from the local Magisterial District Judge indicating that you have a hearing to decide whether you will be evicted.
Leases can be pages long and can be very difficult to comprehend. Before you sign your name as a tenant or co-signer, be sure to call your LegalShield provider for a complete review and consultation!