Our first issue sounds simple and easy, but you would not believe how many people fail to do this. Read your lease prior to signing it. It may seem long and riddled with legal jargon. But within those pages a tenant will learn their responsibilities versus those of the landlord. And be sure to write down any questions and raise those issues with the landlord prior to signing. Pay special attention to paragraphs that talk about rent payments, late payments, utilities, additional occupants, and the procedure for repairs (along with who’s responsible to pay for them).
I’ll make next issue very simple and clear with eight words: Your deposit is not your last month’s rent!
Your deposit is exactly what it says: a deposit. A landlord uses it to cover any damages you might have made to a property during your lease. The last month’s rent should always be paid. From there each state has timelines a landlord must obey to return a deposit to tenants once they move out. In Illinois, this is 30 days. Once you vacate the premises, walk through the property with your landlord and assess any damages. Always take pictures for your records. Your landlord will then have those damages repaired and return the remaining balance of the deposit.
Lastly: Landlords always love great tenants and don’t want them to move. If you are a nice, clean tenant who pays rent on time every month, a landlord knows what he has. Perhaps a landlord’s biggest expense is property turnover. Lost rent and clean-out costs can cost a landlord thousands of dollars. Let’s face reality: Your landlord has bills and rents must rise every so often. But sometimes a landlord will not boost rents–just to keep a great tenant. You may go several years without an increase. Always discuss this with your landlord prior to renewing your lease.
A tenant-landlord relationship can be love-hate at times, but most landlords always want their tenants to feel at home. If everyone communicates properly from the start, no surprises should arise later. Always contact a qualified real estate professional or real estate attorney if you have any questions prior to signing your lease.