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Before you sign your first lease, read this

apartment lease detailsWhy does signing your first least seem so terrifying? Maybe it’s the tiny print, the complete overuse of legal mumbo-jumbo, or an awareness to the fact that once you’ve put pen to paper on that lease agreement, there’s no going back? Typically you will be committing yourself to successfully having the ability to pay a year’s worth of monthly payments.  Undertaking this sort of responsibility is stressful on everybody, but the first timers always have it rough.  Apartment hunting is relatively easy in comparison to the actual work you’ll have to do to add those new keys to your key chain.  Rest assured, there are a handful of vital pieces of information all renters should know before signing any lease agreement.

Basic 411

By signing to the terms of a lease agreement, you are agreeing that you will follow each and every provision included in the agreement.  A lease is an actual legal contract and can’t be tossed if you lose your job and can’t afford to pay rent during your lease term.

Both written contracts as well as verbal contracts (for less than 1 year term) are upheld as perfectly legal in the State of Arizona. It is always in your best interest to have absolutely everything in writing just in case things get ugly. Without a written agreement your leasing office could simply double your rent, require you to pay immediately or face eviction on a whim. Yikes.

“Pre-Lease Agreement”

Try to avoid signing a pre-lease agreement if at all possible! Some apartment management companies and landlords will ask you to sign a separate document saying that you plan to sign the contract before you’ve even seen the terms or face penalties. Not much more than a receipt for a “holding fee” should really be necessary.

Security Deposit

In Arizona the maximum you may be charged for a security deposit is equal to or less than one and a half months rent. For example, if your monthly rent is $700, you may not be asked to provide any more than $1,050 to move in. Typically deposits are calculated to include a cleaning deposit, key return deposit, gate pass deposit, etc., which can total no greater than the $1,050 amount.

Be absolutely sure to see in writing the terms of your security deposit.  Is it entirely refundable? If so, based on what terms? Does the deposit serve as the last months rent or will your portion be mailed to you after move out? What portion if any is non-refundable?  What types of things will cause penalty against the security deposit?

Your apartment management company or landlord is required by the State of Arizona to return your security deposit within 14 days of the expiration of the lease, or otherwise agreed upon vacancy date.

General Lease Agreement Key Points

Be sure to check on the procedure for the termination of the lease; this really does vary. An agreement may allow you to continue to rent based on a month-to-month basis, others require an official 30-day or more written intent to vacate even though there is a clear expiration on your lease. Importantly, be sure to know how much notice is required to submit the intent to vacate letter; don’t assume it’s always 30 days! In the past I actually had an apartment complex require a completely obscure 65 days notice and I was severely penalized for missing that lame timeframe.

Fully understand whether you as the renter are required to pay the utilities or if they are included in the monthly rent.  Usually in Phoenix you will find that you are responsible to establish all utilities on your own.  Often times the water bill and trash fees will be tacked on to your monthly rent balance.

Thoroughly read the rules of conduct portion of the contract and ask for clarification on any point you don’t completely understand.  Once it is explained, ask the leasing agent to make a note right there on the contract.  For example if the agreement states that the hot tub is available 24 hours, but the pool closes at 10pm, how is this so and why?

Now relax! Take the task of signing your lease seriously and be sure to schedule enough time in your day so that everything can be thoroughly read and so that you won’t feel rushed. You are now well equipped with the basics and as long as you don’t hold back any questions, you’ll do just fine signing your first lease.

Moving into a place of your own is, and should be exciting!

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Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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