Savvy Tenant – Put The Horse First

So you have been looking for a place to rent.  It’s been an experience.  You’ve seen everything from roach-infested slum apartments to modern streamlined steel-and-glass showpieces that looked more like an office than a home.

Then there it is.  Your dream place.

Dream Home!

Dream Home!

It’s absolutely you, and the price is perfect! So quickly you

  • fill out an application
  • get approval to move in
  • read and sign the lease
  • pay the security deposit and first month’s rent
  • move in



That’s the way most people operate, but that’s getting the cart before the horse.  The horse being the lease.  As we discussed last week, the lease governs your relationship with the landlord and the property until it is fulfilled and you leave the premises.  You should ask for it early, early, early in the relationship and read it thoroughly.  Let me give you an experience that shows why this is so.

A young lady fell in love with one of our newly renovated one-bedroom duplex units.  She put down a deposit to take it off the market, turned in her application; her background and credit was spotless.  We were happy to offer her the unit and she was anxious to sign the lease and get moved in.

She came to our house and started reading the lease and got to the paragraph that adamantly prohibits pets. (My husband is allergic.  It’s painful to see what happens to him when he tries to work on a unit with an animal living there.)

“Oh, what about my little dog?” she asks.

Well, the no-pets policy is something we mention in the initial contact because we understand pets can be members of the family. If we for some reason forget, the prospective tenant will generally ask, given that pets aren’t universally accepted everywhere.  So I am not sure how we missed this important stipulation in the lease before it came time to sign it, but all that matters is that we did.  We can’t budge on this issue because of health issues.

So her options were to move in without the dog, or lose her deposit and start over looking for a place.

She really, really, really liked the apartment.  She really, really, really didn’t want to lose her deposit and application fee.  She really, really, really didn’t want to start looking again.

So she decided to give the dog to her mother who lived nearby and go ahead and take the apartment.

Only what she really did was try to keep the dog at the apartment on the sly.

That didn’t work.  She ended up getting evicted within a couple months.  Lost the deposit.  Started over finding a place.

So ask for a copy of the lease when you get the application.  Read it thoroughly before you exchange any money.   What is the sense of paying for an application for a place (much less putting down a deposit!) if you don’t like the terms that will govern your stay there?

Read the lease FIRST

Read the lease FIRST

What if the landlord doesn’t want to give you a copy of the lease?  Red flag.  Run!

This is where looking for a place to live becomes a head issue instead of a heart issue.  Think first.  Then fall in love with the place when you know it’s safe to do so.  (Side point: this works pretty good in other areas of life as well. :-))

What would be a deal-breaker term in a lease for you?


2 responses to “Savvy Tenant – Put The Horse First

  1. This is such a level headed approach to life. Unfortunately, I haven’t always followed sound judgement. However, as age moves in, it becomes more reasonable to follow all the rules and not just the easy ones.


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