How to Read a Lease: What to Know Before You Sign

By Brittany Loeffler on August 28, 2018

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For many, a lease is the first official legally binding document you’ll ever sign. It’s a contract that is upheld by the law between you and your landlord. At first, when you look through a lease you may feel intimidated, especially if it has small print and looks like an official contract. We are taking away the intimidation of a lease and teaching you how to read a lease so you know exactly what to look at before signing it.

how to read a lease

via Pixabay

Read the Entire Lease

The most important thing to do when first receiving the lease is to read the entire thing. With a legally binding document, you need to be aware of everything it states. If later on, you violate the lease without knowing it, you will still be held accountable for the consequences because you signed the lease in which the rules and terms are stated.

Make sure to read it carefully. Don’t be afraid to mark it up with any questions or highlight sentences you do not understand.

Check for Correct Information

The first thing to look at on the lease, after reading the entire lease, is for the correct information. Make sure that your name and your roommate’s names are spelled correctly. Check that the address of the property is correct. This is important if you have to dispute a problem with your landlord by using the lease. If the information is incorrect, it may not be upheld in court.

Rent and When It’s Due

You’ll want to know how much you will be paying each month in rent. Sometimes landlords will put the entire amount that will be paid during the lease term, so don’t be alarmed if you see a large number.

Look for when the rent is due each month too. Usually, it is due on the 1st of the month, but it all depends on when you want your lease to begin. There is usually a grace period if you are running late on your rent before your landlord charges a late fee. Ingrain this due date in your mind each month so you can always pay your rent on time.


Typically, when leasing an apartment the landlord asks for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit before you move in. Depending on your arrangement with the landlord, these deposits may be due all at once or over time. Look to see how much is due and when before signing the lease.

how to read a lease

via Pixabay


Who is responsible for maintenance? To what extent are they responsible? Who do you call in an emergency, such as a flooded basement or burst pipe? This is crucial information during your lease. The beauty of being a tenant is that you usually do not have to fix these problems.

You may be responsible for changing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. If this is unclear, ask your landlord to clarify.


What utilities do you and your roommates have to pay for? Check to see if any utilities are included in the rent. There is nothing worse than moving into an apartment and not having any electricity because you didn’t turn it on in your name.

Renter’s Insurance

Does your landlord require you to have renter’s insurance? If not, it’s still highly recommended that you get it. It will cover anything that is damaged by a house fire or stolen from your home or even your car. It also covers you for any liability.


There are many situations where you may have to sublet your apartment. Whether you are studying abroad or transferring to another university, subletting is a great way to get out of your lease without breaking it. Some landlords allow subletting and others have certain criteria. This should be stated in the lease.

House Rules

Remember, you may make your home in the apartment, but it does not belong to you. The landlord is allowed to set rules that tenants must follow. This can be from not allowing pets to allowing overnight guests to stay a certain number of nights. Read over these rules and make sure that they are reasonable.

Ask for Changes

Reading a lease before you sign it is crucial. Not every lease is the same. If you see something on the lease that you do not agree with, you can ask your landlord to change or edit it. If you notice that something is not in the lease that you think is important, don’t be afraid to ask your landlord to add it. This is a time to negotiate your lease and make sure you are comfortable with everything.

Start Reading Your Lease

Now that you know what you should look for when you read your lease you’ll feel more confident about leasing your new apartment! Don’t be afraid to ask for changes and make sure you understand everything that is stated.

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