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Renters: Read This Before You Sign a Lease
Signing a rental agreement can cause anxiety. Are you getting a good deal? Are the lease terms fair? Are your rights protected? Don’t stress and guess. Legalshield helps you sign with confidence.
Make Sure Your Renter Rights are Protected When Negotiating and Signing a Lease
It's important that you understand what you are signing, both to make sure your rights are protected and so that you clearly understand your obligations under the contract. Below we've outlined several ways renters can protect their rights. If you have questions, or would like a lawyer in your state to review your lease before you sign, a LegalShield Personal plan comes with all that and more for just $29.95/month.
Understand the Terms and Conditions of the Lease
While many landlords start with standard lease forms, tenant law varies from state to state and modifications to terms and conditions that favor landlords are common. As such, it’s important that you read the lease carefully to make sure you understand the terms and conditions you’ll be agreeing to.
- How long is the term of the lease and what are the renewal options?
- How much is the monthly rental payment and security deposit?
- Who is responsible for paying property taxes and utilities?
- Is parking included?
- What are the rules regarding pets, noise, roommates, etc.?
If you’ve read the lease and you have legal questions you’d like answered before you feel 100% comfortable signing on the dotted line, speak with a tenant lawyer.
Negotiate Changes to Renter Fees and Other Standard Lease Terms
Most landlords treat their rentals as a business and know that they need happy customers (renters) to be profitable over the long-term. As such, there are a variety of terms and conditions you may be able to negotiate to sweeten the deal. Here are a few examples.
- Lowering the rent in exchange for a long-term commitment.
- Allowing an exception for a small pet.
- Requiring less money up front.
- Agreeing to maintain landscaping and/or repair the property in exchange for some concession by the landlord.
- Negotiating a rent to own agreement.
Just because something is stated in a lease, doesn't mean it's legal or enforceable. Once you have a personal legal plan, your lawyer can review the lease agreement, provide legal advice and, if appropriate, make a call to the landlord on your behalf.
Know Your Renter Rights and Responsibilities Under Federal and State Law
The first place to look for your rights and responsibilities as a tenant is reviewing the lease agreement itself. That said, there are certain rights and responsibilities under State and Federal law that tenants should be aware of before they sign a lease.
- The right to a habitable residence that is safe.
- Landlords cannot reject a rental application based on race, color, religion, age, sex, family status, or mental or physical disability.
- Landlords must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as installing a ramp.
- Renters must pay rent, which may include taxes and utilities.
- Renters cannot use the property for illegal purposes.
- Unless agreed to in writing, tenants cannot make structural changes or damage the property.
Having a personal plan from LegalShield allows you to pick up the phone and call your lawyer any time you have a question about your rights or responsibilities as a renter.
Ask Smart Questions Before You Sign
Even if you feel like the rental fee and the basic terms and conditions of the lease agreement seem fair, there are a few other questions you may want to ask before you commit.
- Who manages the property? Do they live nearby?
- Who do I contact for maintenance problems and how quickly are they resolved?
- How should I reach out in case of an emergency at the property?
- Do I need to get renters insurance?
- Will the locks be changed before I move in?
It’s not uncommon to sign a lease for a year-long term. It’s best to take an extra moment or two at the beginning to make sure this is the right rental for your needs. We've created a tenant lease checklist to guide you through the process.
Have a Lawyer Review the Rental Agreement Before You Sign
Most lawyer’s charge $150-$400 an hour even for basic advice. As such, most people don’t think of calling a lawyer when they have quick questions or need someone to look over a lease before they sign it. LegalShield provides an affordable solution.
Signing a standard rental agreement may have significant legal and financial implications over the long-term. Having a lawyer review the document or coach you on how to negotiate terms helps protect your rights.
For a small fee, starting at $29.95/month, your lawyer can review your lease and provide unlimited legal consultation. Furthermore, your lawyer is available to make calls and write letters on your behalf to help negotiate a fair deal, change lease terms or resolve a dispute.