Even when it’s temporary, moving into a home of your own is always a thrill. Whether you’re accustomed to living with roommates, your parents, or with dozens (or more) of coworkers crammed into a barracks, not much compares to that amazing feeling of opening the door to walk into your house or apartment for the first time. But before taking that step, you’ve got to find a place you like and make it yours. If you’re looking for a rental property, that means signing a lease. And we’ve got a few pointers to help you get that done right.
1. Read it all
A lengthy document full of bureaucratic language like a lease is the last thing most people consider an entertaining read. But it is absolutely not something you want to simply skim over before signing it. It’s a legally binding agreement requiring you to regularly pay large amounts of money for a place you’ll be living in for months and years at a time. So entering into one is a big deal. Take your time, read it over carefully, and make sure you understand every page, paragraph, and clause before inking your name at the end.
2. Keep things specific
Ideally, by the time you have a lease in front of you, you’ve already been as specific as possible in the lead-up to that point: specific when finding the house with exactly what you want and specific in any talks or negotiations with your landlord-to-be. Ensure that all those important specifics, all those details that matter to you, are clearly stated in the lease. From the monthly rent (down to the cent) to the correct address, make sure what you sign covers exactly what you expected to sign for.
3. Are utilities included or not?
If home renting is new to you, the concept of utilities being separate from your rent may be as well. Things like heat and power are not always included in the money you send your landlord and have to be paid for separately. Even if you’ve discussed the particulars of utilities at the place you plan on renting, make sure the lease reflects what you expect to be covered in your rent.
4. How about automatic renewal?
Another thing that’s sometimes part of standard leases is the option for automatic renewal. Just like automatic renewal for anything else (streaming entertainment services, cell phone bills, newspaper subscriptions, etc) this allows you to extend your lease for additional time with minimal hassle and paperwork. It’s great if you expect to be in one location for at least a few years, but not if you’re only spending a brief (or unknown) amount of time on station. You’ll undoubtedly discuss and agree on this option with the property owner beforehand, but make sure the lease reflects your needs.
5. The military clause
As we’ve mentioned before, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act legally protects active duty and reserve personnel who need to break leases for official purposes. But putting a “military clause” in your lease before you sign it means you wont have to invoke the SCRA to fight for your right to break it if need be. You can simply invoke the clause and be on your way. Most landlords near bases are well aware of SCRA and usually include these clauses as well. But if you’re not living near a military post it’s smart to have your landlord put a military clause in the lease.
Depending on how tough your housing hunt is, getting to the point where the lease is in-hand can be difficult enough. But, just as AHRN is here to help you through that part, we hope these tips will help you sign the lease you need for the home you want. So good luck and savor that wonderful first step through your very own front door.
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