Are you planning on renting an apartment or home? Do you know what your landlord would charge you if you were a day late on your rent? Or how to avoid being charged for damages that were already done to the property before you even moved in? Lease agreements are contracts and they can vary widely. It is important to take the time to look over the lease, without rushing, so you can ask a leasing agent or landlord any questions you may have before signing. If you are looking at several different rental properties, it may be possible to ask for a copy of a lease for you to review before you make a decision.
Here are five things to note before signing a rental lease. Please note that these suggestions are based on Michigan landlord tenant law, and each state has its own requirements and laws governing rental agreements.
- Security deposit amount: A security deposit is generally required to be paid by the tenant in advance of moving into a new rental property, and is in addition to paying your first month’s rent. A landlord may not require a security deposit that is greater than 1½ times the monthly rent (MCL 554.602). Here is a useful guide to security deposits.
- Inventory checklist: Inventory checklists are a useful tool to protect yourself from unnecessary charges at the end of your tenancy, and are required by MCL 554.608. When you move into a rental property, be sure to complete the “commencement” inventory checklist, noting any existing damage to the property, and return a copy of this checklist to the landlord within seven days after receiving possession of the premises (unless you and the landlord agree to complete the inventory within a shorter time period under MCL 554.608 (3)).
- Late fees: The way landlords choose to charge late fees can vary, and you will want to know how much they are and how you are charged for them, in case you ever find yourself behind on rent. The late fee may be a flat number, a daily charge, or go up in increments depending on how late you are. You will want to note how much the landlord may plan to charge you well in advance.
- Repair fees: The Michigan legislature has a very useful guide on the responsibilities of tenants and landlords regarding repairs to the rental property, but you will want to take note of what the lease agreement in particular states regarding repairs. Sometimes a tenant may be responsible for the first $100 due for a repair, and this may be something you want to be prepared for, rather than surprised by.
- Renters of mobile homes, subsidized housing, or tenants in nursing homes may have additional rights and duties, and if you have questions or concerns regarding these types of leases, it may be useful to consult an attorney. The Counsel and Advocacy Law Line (CALL) is able to provide legal advice for qualifying low-income individuals in Michigan, and can be reached at 888-783-8190. More information is available at Michigan Legal Aid Services.
If your dishwasher suddenly stops working, you forget to pay your rent on time, or you suddenly need to move out of state, you will be glad to know how to begin solving these problems and reviewing your options.
For more information, please see the Michigan Guide for Tenants and Landlords.
Hailey Noonan is CHN’s former Resource Development Coordinator.