Let’s play the imagination game.

Imagine you found the perfect apartment for rent and you’re super stoked about it. It’s got a great view, thick walls, and the fresh paint boasts all of the colors you love.

You sit down with the property manager or landlord to sign a lease agreement. You are so excited you found this gem, you sign without really reading it.

Tsk, tsk tsk.

You missed a few things that just might come back to bite you later. We don’t want you to get bitten, so here are some things to watch out for in a lease agreement before you sign:

1) Basic Agreements

Sure, we all want the easiest, fastest way to do things, but when it comes to signing on the dotted line, you need to know particulars. Generic agreements may omit specifics like rental extensions, move-in and move-out dates, and what the damage limit is, if any.

If your agreement lacks these specifics, ask that they be included before you sign. A good property manager knows to have them in the agreement, so beware the guy that refuses to consider including them.

2) Additional Fees

This one’s a doozy. The last thing you want is your landlord showing up at your door, claiming you owe him or her $500 dollars for parking.

Read the agreement thoroughly. Some hidden fees to look out for include:

  • Application fee
  • Late payment fee
  • Monthly parking fee
  • Security deposit beyond the first and last month
  • Damage fee
  • Pet fee

During the signing of the application, ask if there are any additional fees you need to be aware of that may not be part of this list. If they aren’t on the agreement, be sure that they are included before you sign.

3) Utilities

I rented a house once that didn’t make clear that the all of the utilities were not included. (This is my fault. In my defense, I was young and naïve.)

So when the lights went out one day, I was beside myself. I called my landlord, panicked. He told me I had to call and set up the gas and electric myself. He then added that the only utility included was water and sewer.


Don’t be me when I was young and naïve. Ask what utilities are included, if any. Utilities are:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Water and Sewer

4) Damages

If you’ve ever watched the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus tries to make his new roommate, Kimmy, responsible for a broken lamp on his desk.

“Ever since you moved in, this lamp stopped working,” he tells her, two minutes after she accepts him as a roomie.

This is not what you want to happen to you.

In the fine print portion of your lease, check and see if it states that you are responsible for damages that are present at the end of your term. This is normal and this is what you want.

What you don’t want is to be responsible for damages that were there before you moved in. We here at Homies recommend a walk through so you and the landlord are clear on what damages might already exist.

This is a great place to ask if you are able to hang wall art with nails and such, and if the holes would be considered standard repair or damage.

5) Subletting

Are you allowed to let someone else live in your place when you head to Greece for those three months?

Knowing if subletting is part of your lease is good information to have. If you are able to sublease, your agreement will likely require that individual to sign a lease agreement, too.

If you think it’s too much work to go back to the rental office and bug them about letting someone stay, think again. Make it official and save yourself tons of heartache.

Every lease agreement is different. That’s why you need to read it thoroughly. Make sure your move out date is clear so there are no surprises in the months ahead.

Want more rental agreement tips? Check out our post, Why the Rental Application is Important.