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American Integrity

5 KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU SIGN A LEASE

Whether you’re a new student looking at your first Gainesville apt. rentals lease or a long-time renter who’s been through the process many times, it’s important to consider carefully before you sign a rental agreement.

“A lease is a legally binding contract, and if you don’t review it thoroughly and meet all the terms, it could end up costing you financially,” says Bruce Brashear, a business attorney who has been practicing in Gainesville for 27 years.

Before you commit to a lease, ask yourself these questions:

1.     Did I read every word in the lease? Don’t skim through, and don’t rely on what someone from the apartment community tells you is in the lease. Read everything. “You’re liable for the terms printed on the page,” says Bruce, “even if they differ from what you may have been told.”

2.     Do I understand the terms? Review the Gainesville apt. rentals lease with the landlord or property manager to make sure you know what you’re committing to. If you’re still not clear, consider having an attorney look over the contract. Note: If you’re a student at UF, you can ask Student Legal Services to review the lease with you for free. Just call them at 352-392-1665 to set up an appointment. Santa Fe Community College students, you can contact SFCC Legal Services at 395-4134.

3.     What’s it really going to cost me? First, you want to make sure the rent you were quoted matches the figure on the lease and that any specials (free rent for a month, security deposit waiver, etc.) have been deducted from the amount due. Then you want to check whether you’re required to pay additional charges for services such as water, electricity and trash removal.

4.     What repairs, if any, am I responsible for? Make sure the lease spells out whether you’re expected to pay if something like the plumbing leaks or a light switch snaps off (probably not) or you break a cabinet door in the kitchen (more likely).

5.     Am I liable for things my roommates do or don’t do? Check that the lease spells out who is accountable if, for example, a roommate doesn’t pay rent on time or moves out early. “One way to reduce your liability for costs like these is to rent from a community that allows each roommate to sign an individual lease,” suggests Troy Sendler, a rental specialist in Apartment Hunters’ Gainesville office. “For first-time renters we suggest they consider individual leasing,” he says. It not only provides some protection, it makes it easier to get approved for a lease.”

For the full story on dealing with Gainesville apt. rental leases, talk to the rental specialists at Apartment Hunters. You can stop by the local office, or reach them by phone in Gainesville at 352-336-9349. If you’re out of the area, call toll-free at 888-275-0986.

TIP

To protect yourself from security deposit charges, make a record of any existing damage before you move in. Create an inventory sheet (or videotape the apartment). Note holes in the walls, burn marks or discolored spots on the rugs, chips in the tub or sinks, damage to flooring tiles or countertops, etc. When you’re done, date and sign the sheet and have the landlord sign it too. Then make a copy for both of you and keep yours in a safe place.


GUARANTEEING THAT LEASE

If you’re a student and you don’t meet a Gainesville apartment community’s income requirements, you’ll more than likely be required to have a second person sign your lease as a guarantor.

Much like a co-signer on a car loan, a guarantor agrees to assume your financial obligations if you fail to pay your rent on time, if you move out before the lease expires, or if you damage your apartment and refuse to pay for repairs.  Usually a parent will act as a guarantor, but anyone with adequate financial means can serve the role.

Once you’ve identified the person, he or she will have to pass a credit check and be approved by your apartment community. Only after all that has been done will you be allowed to move in to your new home.

Printed with permission of Insite Magazine.