Before You Sign a Lease

You and the landlord can mutually agree to add to or otherwise change the proposed lease. This is especially important if the landlord promises to make improvements to the property prior to or during the tenancy. Be sure to:

  • get everything in writing, signed, and dated by both you and the landlord (a written lease may not be legally modified by an oral agreement).
  • all agreed additions and deletions are in writing and are initialed by both you and the landlord on all copies of the lease.
  • mark objectionable clauses, and try to have them removed.
  • list any provisions you would like to add (e.g., listing the specific appliances a landlord indicates will be provided; that the landlord will paint the premises or make modifications before you move in).
  • if any rules or provisions are part of a separate document, either have these included as part of the lease, or obtain a copy for your records.
  • see an attorney or a tenant advocacy service if the lease is extremely complex, involves large amounts of money, or is for a long time period, such as three or more years.
  • not sign a lease that has any blank sections.
  • not agree to a provision to obey rules not yet written.
  • assume the landlord will enforce every lease provision.
One Last Check

After you have read the proposed lease, but before you sign, it is always advisable to check the property records at City Hall to find out if you are signing a lease to a property or with a landlord that has been known to have problems in the past.

Time is better spent before entering into legal contract than afterwards to deal with the consequences. If a landlord won't allow you the time to make an informed decision, considering walking away and continuing your apartment search.