Reading and Reviewing the Rental Agreement
Read over the entire lease and make sure that you understand everything BEFORE you sign. You can bring your lease in to the Renter Center to have it reviewed by an expert.
What to look for before you sign
1. RentHow much you owe each month and how it is to be paid. Montana law states that rent is due at the beginning of the month. The lease should specify exactly what is included in your rental payment (utilities, garbage, disposal service, etc.)
2. SecurityDepositThe security deposit is supposed to be paid before you move into your rental.Security deposits generally amount to about one month's rent; however, in Montana there is no limit as to what the deposit can be.
3. Landlord/Tenant responsibilities
- Who is responsible for what in regards to upkeep of the property? Your lease should clearly states who is responsible for lawn care, snow removal and trash pick-up.
4. Late fees
the rental agreement should explain what the landlord's policy is regarding late rental payments. When is the payment considered late and how much will you be charged?
5. Length of the lease
The lease should state the length of the tenancy and whether your lease is week-to-week, month-to-month or longer.
Month-to-month leases: Your landlord can give you 30 days notice and does not have to have a reason for doing so (and vice versa).
- Allowing for maximum flexibility, this can be a good fit with those whose plans are up in the air.
- It also leaves tenants very vulnerable and desperate for housing at the most inconvenient times.Consider that you could get a 30 day notice in December when you are in the middle of finals and planning to leave town for winter break.
- Your landlord can also change lease terms or raise rent with just a 30 days notice
The lease should let you know what the landlord's policy is on subletting: whether it is not permitted at all, if written consent is required beforehand, or if no consent from the landlord is needed.
What is the landlord's policy regarding pets? If allowed, are there any limitations and what additional fees are involved?
8. Other rules
The lease may also include additional rules covering things like use of common spaces, placement of indoor furniture outside, whether smoking is allowed in the premises, etc.
BEWARE of Intent to Lease Clauses
- Intent to Lease agreements ask for a deposit for a rental, although you can't move in right away.
- They can be problematic because they sometimes do not have an end date...so they may VERBALLY tell you that it will only be a week, but when you call back a week later, the rental still isn't available. Contact The Renter Center if you have issues.
- You can ask them to put their verbal promise on the document and then all sign.
Get a Receipt!
Always get a receipt. If the landlord insists that you pay in cash, make sure to get a receipt.