When it comes to signing a lease, proceed with caution. Don't gloss over the details.
"Renters beware," says Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group in Brooklyn. Here's why:
1. THE DECK CAN BE STACKED
Typically, the lease favors the landlord, and there is no escape or cancellation clause, says Rob Anzalone, CEO of Fenwick Keats Real Estate in Manhattan. However, there can be riders that include a cancellation provision with certain stipulations and or penalties. Bottom line: If you lose your job and can no longer afford your apartment, you might be stuck until your lease expires. There's a good reason financial planners preach the importance of an emergency fund.
2. YOU MAY HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES
"If renting a house, who is responsible for landscaping and snow removal? Property maintenance can be costly," says Connie Bruno, vice president of rental help with the Community Development Corp. of Long Island in Centereach. Know the building's rules and regulations. "Are you required to have renters insurance?" asks Fabio Scoditti, a Century 21 agent in Manhattan.
3. FINE PRINT MAY HAVE FEES
Can you be billed for damages beyond your security deposit? What is the cost of any late fees? Lease terms should be clear: the amount of rent, when it is due, security deposit amount, and any fees such as for parking and pets, says Rick Gersten, CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental service in Washington, D.C. A good lease also states when a landlord can access the property, emergency contacts, utility fees, and when a landlord can terminate the lease.