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Understanding Your Lease

Posted by Apartment Leasing Guide on September 7, 2022

It’s time to sign the lease and there is one less thing to worry about with your impending move – right on! If you don’t understand something in your lease at the time of signing, ask questions. Ask lots of them. This is a binding contract, guys.

Your Name and Birthdate
Not all leases will have your birthdate on it, but if it does, you will want to ensure that your birthdate and your first and last name are all correct. If it’s not, request the landlord to type up a new lease, or cross it out in one solid line, write it the correct way, and have both parties initial.

Start & End Dates of the Lease
You will want to make sure the start and end dates written in the lease are accurate. Typically the start date is the first day of the month. Some management companies start the date of the lease on the day you are scheduled to move in. The end date should always be the last day of the month. It would really suck if you are homeless on October 31 because your lease end date was October 30 and you cannot move in to your new apartment until November 1. True story.

Notice Period
Almost all property management companies require a written notice to vacate the apartment – with most notice periods being 60 days. If you are lucky, you get to provide a 30 day notice. Keep in mind that most management companies require you to be out on the last day of the month at 12 noon and not one second later or hefty hourly charges thereafter may occur. The reason you need to be out by noon is so the landlord can start preparing, or “turning”, the apartment for the new resident. If you know your apartment has not yet been rented, consider asking the landlord if you are able to stay until the first. The worst thing anyone can say is ‘no’.

Due Date for Rent
Most management companies require the rent to be paid on the first and oftentimes allow a grace period until the fourth or fifth of the month. Sometimes, you have up until the tenth or the fifteenth of the month to pay. But ask your landlord when it is due – each company has its own policy.

Utilities Included in Rent
So your landlord told you that heat is covered, yeah? Is that specified in the lease? If it’s not and your landlord said it is, request the lease to reflect that tidbit of information on the lease before you sign that dotted line. If the landlord refuses to do so, do not sign the lease. Again, a good landlord makes things right. If information is not listed as advertised, they will make sure it’s fixed – and promptly.

Management’s Right to Enter
Surprisingly, this is a common thing in most leases. Basically, in a standard Minnesota Housing Association lease, this clause allows Management to enter your home with sufficient notice (i.e. quarterly or annual inspections, preventative maintenance, the sale of the property, or rental of the unit etc.). It also states that Management has the right to enter for maintenance emergencies. Know that this does not mean a landlord can enter whenever he or she feels like it to hang out and wait for you in your dining room!

Last but not least, once all lease documents have been signed, request a copy of the signed lease and retain it for your records!

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