One of the grave mistakes a Miami tenant can make is to not read a lease thoroughly before signing it. Since no two leases are exactly alike, this can become a big problem as some landlords may also put things in the lease that you would not agree to. A lease is a binding legal contract, so unless the particular clause violates state law, you might end up having responsibility for anything from unauthorized guests to tree removal. Before signing anything, you should read the lease entirely and thoroughly. As you go over the lease, keep an eye out for these items.
1. Documentation of Property Condition
Before signing a lease, you must determine if your landlord has a system for documenting the property’s condition. This is very important; not documenting the property’s condition in some way before moving in could cost you dearly. Be sure to inquire about your landlord’s documentation process and report existing damage that you see before you move in.
2. Termination Policy and Fees
Check if your lease covers a specific time period or if you have to renew it on a month-to-month basis. Whichever approach your lease uses, you have to understand the policy regarding ending or canceling the lease as well as the fees involved. Some leases only require 30-60 days advance notice that you will be leaving. But others impose serious penalties for lease termination. For example, if you sign a 12-month lease but then you need to move out after six months, you might be required to pay a cancellation fee, the remaining rent on the contract, or both. You may also forfeit some or all of your security deposit. As all leases are different, you have to know these policies carefully and raise any concerns before you sign.
3. Roommates and Subletting
Do not assume that renting a home gives you the right to sublet even a part of it to others. But many leases include clauses that strictly forbid renters from doing so. Review your lease terms carefully before planning to sublet your home when you are away or getting a roommate to help you with the rent. You don’t want to get evicted for illegally subletting your place or be held financially responsible for any damage caused by your illegal tenant while staying in the residence.
4. Pet Policy and Pet Fees
If a pet is moving in with you into your new home, check your lease beforehand for your landlord’s pet policy. It is not a good idea for tenants to hide their pets from a landlord who has specified that these are prohibited on the property. Anticipate that there will be additional fees or a deposit if your pets are to stay with you. You should review your lease to see if that deposit is refundable if your pet does not cause any property damage. The only exception is if your pet is a service or emotional support animal. In a case like this, the landlord has to allow the animal on the property with no additional fees. If you have one, make sure your landlord knows so you can avoid problems in the future.
5. Cleaning and Other Responsibilities
As you read through the lease, make a careful note of which responsibilities are assigned to whom. Most leases will stipulate that the landlord will take care of certain services while you have to take care of others. Some tenant-assigned tasks usually include lawn maintenance, light bulb replacement, utilities, and cleaning. Some landlords opt to take care of these services and have the property cleaned professionally before the next tenant moves in. Others, though, expect the tenant to do these or hire a professional cleaning company by themselves to get it done. Whatever your arrangement may be, you must decide whether you will be able to fulfill your responsibilities before signing the lease.
All of these show why it is important to read your lease carefully. Bring up all your questions and clarifications if necessary. Some parts of your lease may be negotiable so consider asking your landlord for revisions if there are things you don’t like. As you will be the one living with the lease terms, understanding them clearly will mean fewer surprises for you later on.
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