Tips before signing a lease agreement

Posted on: April 21, 2016

Understand your legal obligations before signing a lease agreement

A lease is a legal binding contract between you and your landlord. It contains both your rights and your obligations during the period of your tenancy. In the event of any dispute, the lease will be the primary document to resolve the issue at hand.


  • Read the entire lease before signing
  • Find out who is responsible for repairs and maintenance
  • Know the lease term
  • Know the rent amount
  • Ask questions


  • Confuse rent with a security deposit
  • Assume subletting is allowed
  • Withhold rent payments
  • Try renovating
  • Forget to keep a copy of your lease agreement


Do read the entire lease before signing

The lease contains details of every aspect of the agreement. Once it has been fully executed, it is a binding legal contract. Make sure you understand every item listed within it. It is the one document that states your rights and obligations while renting from the owner.

Do find out who is responsible for repairs and maintenance

Over the course of a tenancy, things can go wrong. Before you sign a lease, you should know who is responsible for the repair of items such as appliances, windows and light fixtures. The lease should also contain emergency contact information for the property manager or landlord.

Do know the lease term

The lease should state clearly the move-in date and length of tenancy. Be aware of any penalties you may incur should you choose to move out before the end date of the lease.

Do know the rent amount

The lease will state the amount of rent and how frequently it needs to be paid. Typically it is once a month. Make sure you know when the rent needs to be paid, specifically to whom and how the landlord will accept payment. Keep receipts of every payment. A canceled check is useful to have in case a dispute arises.

Do ask questions

Leases can vary from one page to several dozen and can also include additional riders. If there is any language or a provision that you do not understand, ask questions before you sign. As a lease is a binding document, it is not unwise to seek expert advice from a lawyer or real estate professional.


Do not confuse rent with a security deposit

At lease signing you will be required to leave a deposit with the landlord. Typically this is equal to one or two months rent. Do not confuse rent with a security deposit. This amount will be held by the landlord to cover any damage you might cause the property while you hold the tenancy. It will be returned after your move out and after the unit has been inspected. Most leases do not allow a security deposit to be used as rent even for the last month.

Do not assume subletting is allowed

Do not assume subletting your apartment is allowed without express permission from the landlord. Your lease will state all the agreed upon occupants of the unit. It will also state under what circumstances you might be able to sublet your lease. If there are people living in the unit unbeknownst to the landlord, they may have cause to evict you.

Do not withhold rent payments

Don’t withhold rent payments even if you think you have a valid reason. If you believe the landlord is at fault for something, find out the proper ways to have that rectified. Usually those are also spelled out in the lease. Withholding payment for any reason will have a detrimental effect on your credit rating.

Do not try renovating

Your lease allows you to occupy the unit for a set period of time. You must return the unit to the landlord in the same state as when you moved in—with allowances for normal wear and tear. You are not allowed to alter the physical unit or perform renovations without the express written permission of the landlord.

Do not forget to keep a copy of your lease agreement

The lease is the document that will protect your rights. Do not lose it. Make sure you keep a copy in a safe place.

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