When you’re presented with an apartment lease, you don’t have to just sign on the dotted line.  If you know what’s standard and what’s not, you may be able to get better terms – or avoid locking yourself into a contract with the landlord from hell.

1.      How long have you got?

One-year apartment leases are standard in most places.  If you’re only offered a month-to-month tenancy, that gives you flexibility if you may need to leave on short notice, but it also means you may be looking for a new place – and paying moving expenses again – much sooner than you expected.
On the other hand, your landlord may want to lock you into a lease for two years or more.  This can protect you against rent increases during the term, but it also leaves you on the hook for the balance of the rental term if you need to leave early.

2.      Can your landlord snoop around in your underwear drawer?

It’s standard for your landlord to have access to your apartment – to perform repairs and to confirm that you’re not violating the terms of the lease.  However, you should have “reasonable” notice of a landlord’s visit (except in an emergency situation, like when there’s a burst pipe) and the right to be present when your landlord’s on the premises.

3.  Are you insecure about your security deposit?

Most leases require security deposits. For example, in New York, the amount is usually one month’s rent.  The amount isn’t limited by state law, but it may be capped by city and local laws in your area.


Click here to learn how you can protect your security deposit before you move in, or even before you sign your lease.

New York Law requires that a security deposit must be returned to a former tenant within a “reasonable” time.  “Reasonable” isn’t defined by statute, but it’s usually interpreted to mean 21 to 45 days.  If it’s important for you to get your money back earlier – for example, so you can pay the security deposit for a new apartment – make sure that your lease specifies this.

When you’re negotiating a lease, you’ll have a lot more leverage if you know what’s standard and what’s not.  LawGeex makes that easy — you can upload your lease and instantly compare it to thousands of others.

Click here to learn how it works.

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