Looking for a new rental involves more than just finding a nice unit that you can call home. While you do want to make sure the unit is in good condition, you’ll also want to make sure the terms of the rental contract are also favorable. This overview pinpoints a few important considerations you’ll want to explore before signing a rental agreement.

Understand Utilities
The rental agreement, or lease, should describe how the unit’s utilities will be managed. This part of the agreement should specify which utilities will be paid for by the property owner and which ones you’ll be responsible for paying as the tenant. Additionally, the document should also reveal how usage will be measured. For example, if you’re responsible for paying the electric, the lease agreement should state whether you’ll have your own meter, or use a submetering system. If you can negotiate for the bulk rate, the submetering system may be beneficial.

Review Your Lease
Any point that you negotiate for with your landlord should be included in your lease. For example, if electrical outlets are missing covers, the lease should specify that covers will be added before you move in. Anything that isn’t included in the written lease agreement may be difficult to enforce. Even if you end up taking the matter to court, a lack of a written agreement makes it harder for you to prove your point.

Define Subjective Terms
Your lease will use terms that can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and failing to define these terms can create problems down the road. For instance, your rental agreement may give you permission to make alterations to the unit as long as you don’t make structural changes to the property. While most people understand this to mean that a tenant can’t take out a wall, or add a new construction to the unit, your landlord may interpret this to also mean that you can’t change lighting fixtures, or make other minor changes. The agreement should specify in clear, written terms what is meant by structural changes.

When it’s time to sign the lease agreement, be sure to read it carefully. You may want to compare it to your own notes to ensure it includes everything you previously discussed with the property owner. This will help you ensure all of your needs are met before you sign a legally binding agreement.