It’s not every day we’re faced with signing a legally binding contract. Whether you’re a first-time apartment renter or looking to make a move, here are five important things to know prior to signing a lease agreement. 

1. Rent payment due date, method of rent payment and late fees.

Be sure to note when rent is due, the method of payment the manager will accept and applicable late charges. These details will be outlined in the lease agreement. Many managers no longer accept checks, cash or money orders and only accept payment via an electronic method. If rent is not received by a specified date per the lease, a late charge will most likely be added to the rent and there may be an additional daily late charge for each day thereafter rent remains unpaid.  

2. Early termination and lease buy-out options.

Tonya Batson has been with P.B. Bell for over 20 years.

Life can be unpredictable, and changes may occur which will require you to terminate your agreement prior to the end of your lease. Prior to signing the lease, be sure to read the lease to determine if a buy-out policy exists and know what steps must be taken to lawfully terminate. Typically, a written notice must be provided to the manager at least 30 days from the vacate date and a one-time buyout payment made to the manager to terminate the lease. 

3. Roommates and guarantors.

It’s important to note, with rare exceptions, all apartment occupants 18 years or older will be considered lease holders (and therefore will be listed on the rental agreement) and are required to complete an application. This means that all occupants, or roommates, 18 years or older are entering a legally binding contract when signing an apartment lease and all are responsible for the lease terms. By signing a lease together, you are going into business with this roommate, so make sure you know them well. Except where provided by law, you don’t get out of a lease simply because of a future dispute with your roommate.     

Most often, apartments will require a gross monthly income of approximately three times the total monthly rent amount. The gross monthly income of all lease holders can be considered jointly to meet the income requirement. 

In the event an applicant or applicants cannot meet the qualifying criteria, a guarantor may be allowed to the lease agreement. The guarantor agrees to be bound by all terms applicable to the resident of the lease agreement and is an absolute guaranty of payment.  

4. Animal rules and regulations.

If you have a pet, be sure to read the animal rules, regulations, restricted breeds, and fees outlined in the lease. Animals of any kind are not typically allowed and there is often a limit to the number of animals per residence. Assistance animals must adhere to a different set of policies, so be sure you understand those as well. Valid complaints from other residents, such as barking or growling, may be cause for management to revoke permission to keep the animal and/or for termination of tenancy. 

5. Smart community and amenity product registration(s). 

Smart community products, such as thermostats and door locks, have become common apartment home features, as well as parcel lockers for package deliveries, controlled community access, common area Wi-Fi and much more. Be sure to confirm what features your apartment community offers, if there are additional costs associated with each and how to register, manage and utilize each product or service. Registration is typically required for each feature individually. 

This is not an exhaustive list of areas to review, but the areas we find create the most confusion or questions. Be sure to take time to read your lease agreement thoroughly prior to signing and clarify any areas of confusion with your property manager. 

Author: Tonya Batson has been with P.B. Bell for over 20 years. During her tenure, she’s been involved with condo sales and was a manager for several properties. Currently, Tonya serves as a senior roving manager, assisting many properties. With her experience and role as a mentor, Batson believes that mentorship allows her to be a supportive tool in a person’s safety kit and still serves as a phone-a-friend to many of her previous mentees when needed. Before P.B. Bell, Batson was a professional theatre stage manager with Theatre League and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in theatre organization and management. To learn more about P.B. Bell, please visit: