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Signing a Lease - What to Expect

Updated: Sep 4, 2018

Experiences differ

Your lease-signing experience will vary depending on several factors. Are you renting from a management company or an independent landlord? Did you need a guarantor to help you secure the apartment?

The signing

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. 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 or online..

You will be expected to leave the apartment in the same condition you found it, so make sure you've documented the condition it's in at move in.

Money issues

You'll need to bring a check - almost always a bank check - to cover the agreed on amount, a security deposit and either the first month's rent or the first and last month's rent. If you are renting a rent-stabilized apartment, the landlord can only ask for the first month's rent and a security deposit no higher than one month's rent. You should be able to receive the security deposit back when you move out if the apartment or home is in the same shape as you got it. Your lease with ll serve as a receipt for these funds, but confirm that, just in case. First rule of renting - always get a receipt.

Note: Just remember that your lease is a binding contract; it needs to contain correct information because it could affect you in the future if the building is sold, if the management company changes hands, etc.

Make sure the lease includes these items

When you are presented with the lease, you will want to confirm that it includes:

The correct amount of rent, concessions, when rent due, leasing office numbers and what utilities are inc.


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 stuff happens and you want to be able to sublet if necessary.

Changes to the lease

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. Some buildings don't allow move-ins to happen after five pm, for instance. If you plan to move during those hours, you'll need to write that into the contract. You'll want to ask about pets or if you can run a home business from your apartment or even if you want to paint the walls a different color or use nails to hang pictures. Make sure it's all in your lease because changing a lease later on can open the door to increased rent.

If you used an agent, please click on LOCATOR on application (NOT “website”) and add agent’s/locator’s name where ever it is asked. Agent will not be compensated if it isn’t done during application process. Even if you tell them or email to verify that later.

If you used a guarantor, the leasing office should have already received all necessary information from him or her, and the guarantor paperwork will be attached to the lease.

If the apartment is empty and ready for you to move in, 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 these cases, you won't get the keys until move-in date. Make sure you call the leasing office a few days before your move-in date to make sure everything is happening as it should. We've heard of people showing up with a truck of stuff only to find that the previous tenant hasn't moved out yet, and that's just not very pretty.


Keep a copy of all the paperwork that you and the landlord sign. These are official documents, and it can be hard to get a copy of them later on - especially if there's a problem or change in management.


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