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When you find a home you like, the owner or management company will most likely have you sign a lease before they let you move in. If you’re wondering if all those pages of legal mumbo-jumbo are necessary, here are some reasons you can be glad that you’ve got a lease in place.

A lease lists the basic details of the rental agreement. You can check your lease if you want to make sure you’ve got the rental amount right before sending in payment. You can look up the landlord’s address or phone number if you drop your phone in the hot tub and fry your contact list. A lease will also provide the amount you’re required to pay as a late fee if you forget to pay rent on time.

A lease details the landlord’s responsibilities. If you’re wondering who pays for the electricity, it’s in your lease. If you’re wondering whether the landlord is required to fix the broken handrail, it’s in your lease. You can refer to this document time and time again if you’re trying to remember whether the landlord said he’d take care of the yard work.

A lease details your responsibilities as a tenant. There are a lot of details discussed when you move into a new home, and chances are you won’t remember all of them. That’s why those details are written out in the lease. Do you have to replace the batteries in the smoke detector or should you call the landlord to do that? Is it your responsibility to change the furnace filter – and how often does it need to be changed? Do you as a legal tenant have the right to sublease the house to someone else? Chances are, these questions will be answered in your lease. If it’s not written down and signed by both you and the landlord, then you can’t be held responsible for it.

While a lease might seem boring, it’s good to read it and pay attention to what’s required of you. If you sign the lease and then break it – even accidentally – the landlord can take action against you. You may be required to move or pay damages. It’s worth your while to know up front what each party will be responsible for. That way you can keep your end of the bargain, and you can keep the landlord accountable for his part.

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