Most renters know that leases are often lengthy documents with pages of legal wording that is difficult to understand. While most leases are essentially the same, smart renters know to read over the contingencies, just in case there is something out of the ordinary. If you're about to sign a lease, be sure to look out for these rental red flags in the papers and around the building that could indicate you're making a bad deal:
It is normal for landlords to have some sort of access to your apartment or house at some point or another - if you need something repaired or the landlord is making upgrades, for example. However, landlords shouldn't be able to have access to your home at all times. Be sure to read the lease for a clause that dictates your landlord must give you some warning when they will be coming over to do some work. You wouldn't want your privacy to be invaded without warning.
If you own a car or the building has its own lot, make sure that you take a look at the state of the vehicles and the condition of the lines of parking spots. Indistinguishable lines could indicate that the lot is not properly taken care of. You also will want to look out for indicators of vandalism or cars that have been damaged, as these could be signs that the lot is unsafe or vulnerable to thieves.
Most of the time, landlords are responsible for repairs. This clause of responsibility should be stated in your lease. Beware of any statement in the lease that makes some or all repairs the responsibility of the tenant. Even if you are given a reduction on rent when repairs come up, being financially responsible is a bad deal. Most renters don't want the responsibility of owning a home, and having to do repairs or maintenance yourself doesn't provide you with that benefit. When looking over your lease, be sure that renters are only responsible for any damage they might cause.
Another important thing to do before signing the lease is inspect the place. You will want to find out if there is any damage throughout the building before you move in so that you are not responsible for paying the cost later on. While doing a self-inspection is a good idea, bringing the landlord with you is the best way to go.
Some leases will require tenants to purchase renters insurance to cover the costs of their belongings if they are damaged or stolen and provide some liability coverage. Regardless of the lease, investing in a policy is a good idea for all renters.