Legalease: Signing with Confidence

 

We’ve all had that moment where the landlord or building manager calls to let you know you have been approved to move into your new place and they want to meet as soon as possible to sign the new lease. In a perfect world, when both parties meet to sign the document, the lessor breaks it down for in easy-to-understand terms and the new lessee knows exactly what is expected and how both sides benefit.

However, it is not always that simple, especially when entering a rental market like Spokane. This is a city where rental agreements and security deposits can be variable and where you are often renting through a private owner. Before you begin to panic, fear not – here are five items that will help guide you through interpreting the oft-confusing legalese and signing that new lease with confidence.

Types of Rental Agreements

In the state of Washington, there are month-to-month, one-way, and fixed-term leases. Be sure to know what kind of lease agreement you are signing and how it affects your rights and responsibilities as a tenant as well as those of your landlord. In Spokane, you will find multiple property management situations and if you are going through a private owner, fixed-term leases that require the equivalent of one month’s rent upon move-in are most common. Apartment buildings are more likely to offer all three lease types, but they will have reduced deposits or rent specials for tenants who sign long-term agreements, most typically for one year.

Rule Changes and Rent Increases

No aspect of a lease can be changed during a fixed-term lease and month-to-month leases require at least 30 days’ notice to the tenant. Many times, this will be stated on the lease itself or explained to you in person. This is especially the case with rent increases, as most lease renewals will involve a rent increase and it is incumbent upon the landlord to notify you in due time.

Restricted Language

Your rights as a tenant are defined under the Washington Landlord-Tenant Act (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=59.18) and cannot be waived on the lease. As you are looking over the lease, be sure to watch for language that attempts to change your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. This is not especially common in Spokane, but it is a good idea to look for and ask about any listed exceptions or fine print clauses on the document.

Security Deposit and Move-Out Terms

In Washington State, tenants must give a notice of at least 30 days before moving out or face forfeiture of a the security deposit. This can be up to a whole month’s worth of rent, especially if you are renting from a private owner. Be sure to give notice on time and in writing to your landlord or building manager and confirm that they received it. To ensure this, many tenants choose to send the notice via certified mail, a method that requires a signature of acceptance and a receipt of the delivery.

Damages, Clean Move-Outs, and Costs Incurred

With almost no exception, you will be required to make sure the apartment or house is in the condition it was provided to you upon your moving out. Make sure you are vigilant that it is top-to-bottom clean and that there is no damage that was not already there when you moved in, as this is grounds for deducting from or relinquishing your security deposit. Be especially careful if you are renting a place from a private owner and always check for and report all damage or disrepair upon moving in and when it is incurred. The landlord should take care of anything that was not caused by you, so be sure to keep records of anything you were responsible for and paid during the lease term.

Image Credit(s): Image(s) by JD Carter. Presented from Flickr.com under the Creative Commons License. For licensing info visit CreativeCommons.org. In no way should the information presented herein be considered endorsed by the artist(s), Flickr, or CreativeCommons.org.

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Jennifer is in her first year with MyNewPlace.  She is excited to be a writer for the company while she finishes her Ph.D. in Anthropology, which she expects to receive from American University this May. ...