One of the most important things you will do during the apartment search process is sign a lease agreement. With all the excitement in finding your ideal place it is important that you remember to explore all the terms in your lease. So that you can commit to your lease without regrets, we recommend you check these 5 items off your list prior to signing on the dotted line.

1. Visit the apartment complex.
You should not just imagine what it is like to live there. This is the place you are going to start and end your day for at least the next year. It is important to get an idea of your commute, and how the space around you feels. However, if you are unable to make an in person visit then utilize an apartment finder in your home search. They can help verify that what you are seeing online is not a scam while also helping guide you through the entire apartment search process, free of charge to you.

2. Ask important questions.
Pay attention to the details in your lease and ask those important questions such as:
  • What is the pet policy?
  • Can I paint my apartment or do any other customization?
  • What is the lease renewal policy and is it automatic?
Although renters insurance is always recommended, you will want to check with your landlord to see if it is required. Under pressure you might feel like only giving it a quick skim, but it is important to know all the details in your lease that could cause you not to get your security deposit refunded.

3. Get everything in writing.
Do not just glance over your lease contract but make sure everything you verbally discussed with your landlord, such as improvements or revisions, has been properly documented. Confirm your move in and move out date is accurate and make sure you understand what all the legal jargon in your lease actually means for you. Most importantly do not assume a handshake will take care of it so get it in writing and make it legally binding.

4. Know what your rent payment covers.
Some apartment complexes include utilities with their monthly rent, while others do not. Make sure you know if your rent covers more than you think. Before you give a lease your autograph find out which bills will impact your monthly budget. Asking about this upfront will allow you to better budget your monthly expenses and avoid being caught surprised.

5. Be financially prepared.
When you sign your lease you are not just signing a piece of paper, but also paying a large sum of money. Before you sign your lease make sure your budget will cover all of your moving expenses. Get your finances in order before you sign your next lease agreement because once you sign what is done is done!

Finding an apartment does not have to be challenging. Our apartment finders are experts in working with rental lease agreements. Contact us and let one of our licensed apartment locators help find you the perfect apartment for you and your budget!

Just because you are not buying a place does not mean you can bail on your rental. A lease agreement is a legally binding contract and not just a piece of paper with your signature on it. Running down this checklist will help you determine if the rental agreement is a good fit, while also helping you avoid getting into a rental panic later.

*A version of this article previously appeared on Angie’s List.