What to expect when you’re expecting an apartment.

It can be a scary procedure since most of us aren’t lawyers or brokers. Make sure you read this ahead of time to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

What happens at the signing?

To get to lease signing most tenants will be required to apply and then have a credit check done. Sometimes this is just a formality, other times it’s a crucial part of the process, either way it gives the landlord peace-of-mind in choosing you as a tenant.
Typically, the lease will be prepared for you after your application goes through. If you don’t hear about the application in two to three days, call the landlord or your agent to find out where things stand. Sometimes the landlord, broker, or even agent can drop off. Once the credit check goes through and you’re approved, you can expect to sign the lease at the building you’ll be renting in. If you are renting from a management company that has several other apartments, you might end up at the management company. Signing a lease will often take place during business hours, so prepare for that.
Since you are providing a security deposit on signing, getting the condition of the apartment on lease signing and move-in is crucial. Make sure you document the condition of the apartment at the lease signing so you protect yourself when you move out.

What should I bring with me?

Bring a checkbook, any identification (a driver’s license or passport works), and any other items that your agent or landlord tell to you bring. Just ask and I’m sure your landlord or agent will remind you what to bring.

Money, Money, Money.

You’ll need to bring a check - almost always a bank check - to cover a security deposit and either the first month’s rent or the first and last month’s rent sometimes both. You should be able to receive the security deposit back when you move out, so you might ask your landlord where he’ll be keeping it (i.e. which bank). Remember your landlord MUST keep it in a separate account for you and give you back the interest it accrued while you were a tenant. Usually, your lease will serve as a receipt for these funds, but confirm that, just in case. First rule of renting - always get a receipt of your payment.

What should I make sure is included in the lease?

Every lease is a snowflake. Your lease-signing experience will vary depending on SO MANY factors. Are you renting from a management company or an independent landlord? Did you use an agent or find your apartment on your own? Did you need a guarantor to help you secure the apartment? Make sure you read through the lease carefully to know what makes yours special.
When you are presented with the lease, you will want to confirm that it includes:

  • the correct amount of rent,

  • the day of the month that your rent is due,

  • the name, address, and telephone number of the landlord,

  • which utilities, if any, are included,

  • and what the building’s rules are.

What about Roommates/Sublets?

If you have roommates, their names should be on the lease as well. You should read the rules, if there are any, regarding subletting because life happens and you want to be able to sublet if necessary.

What if I want to change my lease agreement?

If you made any oral agreements with the landlord when you saw the apartment or during the walk-through, they should be written in the contract. This includes any exceptions to the building’s rules. Changing a lease might cost money, so make sure everyone’s literally on the same page. Changing a lease may be open the door to changing the price of rent.

What if I used an agent?

That’s great! Don’t stress if they’re not at the lease signing, the only two people important in this transaction are the landlord and you. If your agent is not present, the landlord will collect the broker’s fee and pass it on to the broker. Sometimes, the broker handles the lease signing on behalf of the landlord and you won’t even meet the landlord

What happens after I sign the lease?

If your apartment is ready to move into, you’ll get the keys when you sign the lease. Chances are, however, that the previous tenant will still be there or the apartment needs more work or your lease doesn’t officially begin until a certain date. In that case, you won’t get the keys until move-in date. Make sure you call the landlord or the super or the building manager a few days before your move-in date to make sure everything is happening as it should.

What do I do with my lease?

Keep a copy of all the paperwork that you and the landlord signed! These are official documents, and it can be hard to get a copy of them later on - especially if there’s a problem.

Nader Mokhtar: Your Boston Rental Insider

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