Top 10 Things to Think About When You Rent
Bring your lease into SLS before you sign, and we’ll explain each and every provision.
We have unparalleled experience with the leases local landlords use, and we’re happy to go over your proposed lease with you before you sign. Your landlord has a lawyer—you should too. Remember that in Indiana, you’re bound as soon as you sign.
Don't Rent An Apartment That Does Not Yet Exist
Signing a lease for an apartment that hasn’t been built yet, or renting based on just seeing a model, carries some risk. Make sure that you get to see the exact unit you are going to be living in. Beware of leases that leave it up to the landlord to decide where you are going to live.
Only The Statements In The Lease Are Enforceable
Landlords are allowed to make claims in their advertising that they don’t have to deliver on. Most leases will have a clause saying the lease is the entire agreement and requires the tenant to acknowledge that no verbal promises are binding. Statements from agents like, “Oh, we never enforce that,” or “That clause has just always been in there” probably won’t protect you later on. In other words, talk is cheap.
Research Your Prospective Apartments
HAND (Housing and Neighborhood Development) maintains a file on every rental unit within the City of Bloomington. Before you sign a lease, consider visiting the office and taking a look at the file for your unit. You can find out about previous complaints, maintenance problems, and what the occupancy limits are.
Know The Parking Arrangements
Parking is a problem everywhere in Bloomington, both on and off campus. Sometimes the lease is silent on parking, sometimes you have to get a sticker from the landlord, and sometimes you have to pay an extra fee.
To park on the street within a Neighborhood Parking Zone, you are required to have a parking permit, which you can get from City Hall for $25. Don’t just assume parking is provided.
It Can Be Cheaper To Live Off-Campus
Many students move off campus because they think living in an apartment is cheaper than living in the dorms. Most of the time it is.
Apartment life presents many expenses in addition to rent. Your landlord might pay some of your utilities (trash pick-up and water are common), but you will be responsible for the rest (gas/electricity, cable/internet) as well as parking, food, etc. If the lease is doesn’t say, it usually means you pay. Find out up front.
Read the Fine Print (And it’s All Fine Print)
The lease controls almost everything. Indiana has significantly fewer protective statutes and ordinances than many other places. The law assumes that you’ve thoroughly read, studied and understood the lease. Every change or deviation from the preprinted lease needs to be in writing. Get and keep a copy of your signed lease.
Bloomington leases are almost always for a full year. Graduating, leaving school or getting a job in another state won’t get you out of your lease.
Subletters Are Not Always An Option
Many leases contain provisions governing subletters—you might need your landlord’s permission before subletting your apartment; your subletter might need to fill out an application; or there could be a fee imposed.
Pick Your Roommates With Care
You never really know people until you live with them. Almost every lease makes all of the tenants “jointly and severally liable.” That means all of the tenants are responsible for everything. If one tenant doesn’t pay his rent on time, the others are responsible too. The landlord can go after everyone, or just sue the ones most likely to be able to pay.
Move-In and Move-Out Inspections
Do a thorough move-in inspection of your new apartment immediately. Note every hole, stain, crack, and flaw, no matter how minor. Take pictures. You can bet that the landlord will note every problem. When you move out, he or she will fix them and will charge you and/or deduct from your security deposit. You are not responsible for normal wear and tear of the premise, but note: dirt is not considered “normal wear and tear.”
Remember, your landlord can sue you for money in addition to your security deposit to repair damage or clean a trashed apartment. Additionally, some leases will include an automatic deduction from your security deposit for carpet cleaning. Really clean the place when you leave so that it’s better than when you got it.
Communication Clearly With Your Landlord
The key to good relations with both roommates and landlords is good communication. Little problems become big problems when they are left to fester. Report maintenance issues as soon as they come up. Discuss which roommate will pay the bills and when, designate chores, and don’t let personality problems get out of control. Talk it out.