Ask questions before signing your lease

Erin Hopkins

Don’t be tempted by a lease that looks perfect. Make sure you don’t fall into a leasing trap and always read the fine print.

Credit: Andrew popik

It’s time to move out of your parents’ house. The roommates are chosen, and you’ve picked that perfect apartment or house to rent. Now it’s time to sign the lease, but there are details to know before you sign the dotted line.

Lawrence Delino, an attorney in Akron, said the first item to think about is whether the lease will be oral or written. While most leases are written, oral leases are legal and not uncommon, and both are equally as binding.

Whether oral or written, length of a lease can be either month to month or by the year. If a lease is month to month, Delino said, a tenant can be evicted without notice because another tenant is willing to pay more money.

Joshua Smith, senior accounting major, said he leases month to month, but is not worried about being evicted.

“According to our lease, the townhouse is ours until we tell them (the landlords) otherwise,” Smith said.

After the length of a lease has been decided, the landlord and tenant must agree on whether pets, painting or smoking are allowed. Utilities and parking are also common concerns.

Tiffany Holderbaum, sophomore business management major at Brown Mackie College in North Canton, said she has had some parking problems at her apartment.

“We almost had a friend’s vehicle get towed,” Holderbaum said. “Luckily we were home to stop the tow truck, but we learned that after a certain time period, visitors aren’t allowed to park here.”

Holderbaum said she asked basic questions before signing her lease, but Delino said there are three questions that must be asked before agreeing to leasing terms.

The first is: Who is responsible for maintenance?

Delino said students need to negotiate with their landlords things like who will fix problems that arise at the property.

The second is: What is the grace period for late rent payment?

Delino said landlords vary on their grace periods before filing an eviction, and it is important to know how long your landlord’s period is.

The final important question is about a security deposit.

According the Ohio Revised Code, a security deposit is money put down at the beginning of the lease period that is held by the landlord until the tenant moves out or is evicted. The security deposit may be used to compensate the landlord for any late payments or damages to the property.

The landlord and tenant must agree in the lease how much the security deposit will be and, if applicable, how much a tenant will get back when he or she leaves.

Smith said he paid half of the first month’s rent for his security deposit, but the amount can vary from property to property.

Students must also know if a credit check is required.

Dan Corleto, on-site manager at Academic Property Management, said his company does not need a credit check.

If the parent of a student is not available, a co-signer is needed.

Contact regional campus reporter Erin Hopkins at [email protected].