With the advent of new property management technologies and apps, as well as the general simplicity of posting rental ads on online forums and classifieds, many property owners are taking it upon themselves to handle lease agreements privately.
For those looking to lease properties, that means dealing directly with the property owner, which may have drafted their own version of a lease agreement. While general terms may be standard, landlords who are property owners may add in specific clauses or leave out general information that may be important to discuss before signing on the dotted line.
Once you’ve gone through the process of rental inspection and you’re ready to sign an agreement, it’s time to consider what might be in there that should be discussed.
While there are many aspects of a lease that need to be considered, here are ten questions you should definitely ask your prospective landlord before you agree to the lease:
Are there any restrictive terms on the lease?
Ask your landlord if there are any restrictive terms in the agreement. If you see/hear something that raises a red flag (like demanding a curfew, which is illegal), it might be a warning that your landlord may be difficult to deal with in the future.
How is rent paid (and when is it due)?
It’s beneficial for all parties involved to make it easy to pay your rent on a regular basis. Online payments, for example, are a reliable solution. They’re not only convenient, but they also allow for automation and security. However, every landlord has their own preference in accepting payments. Some may require you, for example, to drop a cheque off or mail your rent to a specific location.
Lease terms generally indicate the first of the month as the day rent is due. If you are moving on a different date, you may have pro-rated rent for the first month, or potentially the end of your lease date, depending on if it ends at a time other than the first of the month. If this is the case, make sure it’s clear in the lease to alleviate confusion later.
Which Utilities are my responsibility?
Some rental units cover utilities as part of the rental agreement. Others do not. There isn’t a set format for lease agreements, so ask the landlord which are included and/or which will be your responsibility to cover. If something is not included, find out the average cost so that you aren’t shocked by the price tag when your first bills come due.
Has the landlord disclosed all material facts?
In NSW for example, it’s necessary for your landlord to disclose certain information to you before presenting the lease agreement. This includes:
- If the premises has been subject to bushfire or serious flooding in the last five years
- If the property has been the scene of any violent crime in the past five years
- If the home has significant health/safety risks not apparent upon inspection
- If council waste services differ from other areas
- If a free residential parking permit isn’t available in areas where only paid parking is available
- If the property has a walkway and/or driveway others can legally use
Ask your landlord to disclose material facts that may affect your tenancy, especially in cases where extra costs or inconveniences may be involved. It will save you from frustration down the road.
What is the policy for adding people/pets to the lease?
While some tenant agreements require only one signature, others may ask that every individual over a certain age sign the agreement as well. Some landlords are flexible when it comes to pets, or adding another person to the lease. Some aren’t. It’s best to ask ahead of time what the landlord’s expectations or requirements are, even if you don’t plan on adding people/pets to the lease when you sign.
Can you make alterations to the space?
You do need to seek consent if you plan to make cosmetic changes to rental properties. Something like adding a new coat of paint at your cost might be welcomed by the landlord. However, deciding to add an entire deck to the exterior, or knocking down a wall might not be met with the same enthusiasm. Outline the types of alterations you’d like to make - and then make sure your landlord is okay with them. Whatever the change, it’s best to get it in writing, and then hash it out before you sign the lease agreement.
Is rental insurance required?
While not every landlord requires renters insurance, it’s a good thing to have to protect your personal belongings. Check to make sure what the lease says. If the landlord requires it, whatever your feelings on having rental insurance are, you will have to comply. Most landlords who require insurance will also require proof you have obtained it before you move in. Luckily, it’s not typically an expensive item.
How are maintenance requests handled?
Ask about maintenance requests on the property and how they are handled before you sign the lease. It’s also a good idea to request/attend a walk-through that happens before you move in so you can inspect the property and note any issues. Ask the landlord how they prefer to handle emergency situations and coordinate required maintenance. Make sure whatever the process is, you are comfortable with the arrangement.
What happens if I break the lease? (Do I lose my bond?)
While you may not plan to break the lease before the scheduled end of term, life happens. Ask your landlord how they handle early release from the agreement including what is involved and what the penalties are. There may be a fine attached if you do so. You may also risk losing your security bond.
What is the renewal process?
Typically, rental agreements should outline how much notice you’ll need to provide if you wish to renew your lease. Don’t rely on landlords to remind you of the renewal date before it happens. Ask for the terms of renewal and make a note of them. That way, if you’re keen to renew, you won’t miss out on leasing the property for a second term.
Once you’ve set your sights on finding new digs, there’s lots of resources out there that can put you in touch with prospective landlords. Apps like Instarent, for example, make it easy not only to find a new home but also to make payments, receive payment receipts and communicate with your new landlord about upcoming maintenance and other concerns. The process of finding a new home and keeping up on rent has never been easier.
Are you ready to make your next big move? Instarent helps simplify the rental process. Speak to our team today to see how we can help you move into your new home faster!