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Signing a lease on a new apartment, condo or house may seem like an easy process, but renter beware.  There are several pitfalls that you should avoid and potential legal issues you should watch out for, before signing a new lease.

Deposits and Fees

Before signing a lease for your new home, be sure to read over the portion of the agreement that deals with deposits and fees.  Your lease should clearly spell out not only your monthly rent, but any first, last or pet deposits you may be required to submit.  The lease should also talk about what happens to the deposit upon completion of the lease and after you're ready to move out.  Will the deposit be applied to your last month's rent?  How long does the landlord have to release the deposit back to you after you have moved out?  Is the pet deposit refundable?  There may also be an agent's fee involved in your lease, and the document should explain who is responsible for paying that amount.  Finally, there may be local or state laws that limit the amount of any fees or deposits that can be held by your landlord, or otherwise state how your deposit must be handled.

Clear Property Rules

Money isn't the only thing to be concerned about in your lease.  Often times your new lease will have important terms regarding how you can use or modify your new home.  Noise limitations, prohibitions on any improvements and even nail holes in walls are all items that may be buried within the terms of your lease.  While many of these won't be particularly cumbersome, it's important to be aware of any potential limits you may have when living in your rented home so that you avoid forfeiting your deposit or having to pay costly fees after you move out.

Time Limits, Early Termination and Lease Extensions

When reviewing your new lease, you should ensure that any clauses regarding lease extension, renewal or cancellation are clearly spelled out.  If you're signing a month to month, or other extremely short time period lease be sure you know how much notice you must give your landlord before you move out.  Likewise, if your landlord terminates the lease, how long ahead of time must he inform you?  Even though it may seem unlikely at the outset, you should review and know your options for early termination, or short term lease extension, especially if you will be leasing temporarily or have other considerations such as shopping for a home or a potential work relocation.

Other Considerations

There are a variety of other clauses we've seen added into leases.  Some of them may seem normal, such as prohibitions or limits when it comes to pets.  Others may be less common, such as noise restrictions or limits on the number of guests you can have stay over or the length of time they can reside with you.  Subleases can become even trickier and most lease agreements have very specific language dealing with these.  If you're about to sign a lease and would like an attorney to review before you sign to be sure you are protected, contact the law offices of Justin McMurray for a free consultation.

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