Before you rent a place, you should make sure that:
- The place meets your needs
- You can afford the rent;
- You clearly understand who will pay for electricity, heat, water, and garbage pickup; and
- You inspect the place and note in writing any problems.
The following difficulties recur in many lease situations:
“Don’t worry. We’ll fix that before you move in. Just sign the lease.”
The landlord may be referring to a broken lock, a dirty carpet, or a colony of ants in the kitchen. Conducting a walk-through with the landlord/manager and jointly signing a report that lists all imperfect conditions is a good idea. This should be done as close as possible to the beginning of the tenancy.
“Don’t worry. That paragraph won’t apply to you. Just sign the lease.”
When a tenant signs a lease, it is assumed that the tenant read it, understands it, and agrees to the terms contained in it. If the landlord tells you that a particular part of the lease won’t apply to you, insist on striking through the provision and have the deletion initialed by both the landlord and yourself.
“It’s really just a standard lease. You don’t need to read it all. Just sign.”
This statement should instantly alarm you! Very few leases are “standard.” For example, the lease used by one landlord may provide for an increase in rent during the period of the lease if the landlord’s expenses increase. Make sure you read the lease, and don’t sign unless you understand the provisions and agree to them.
“I have lots of people interested in this unit. If you don’t sign now, it probably won’t be available tomorrow.”
Don’t let yourself be pressured by this statement. If the unit you’re interested in isn’t available tomorrow, then there are probably other places to live. If you need time to read over the lease or to decide whether the unit is right for you, take some time to think about it. Once you’ve signed a lease, you’ve committed.
NOTE: Under state and federal laws there are time limits for taking action to enforce your rights. In Oregon, many lawsuits related to the rental agreement must be filed (started in court) within one year of the incident. There may be other, shorter time limits that apply in other cases. Ask a lawyer about the time limits that could apply in your situation.