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Cornell University

Signing the Lease

Don’t be afraid to ask questions (see suggestions below)! Take the time to have a conversation with a prospective landlord/property manager. A good landlord wants to rent to a responsible person. Asking questions shows that you are going to protect yourself and in turn you are likely going to protect their property. Print out the Lease Signing Checklist to take with you when you're reviewing a lease. 

Questions for the landlord 
  • How long have you been a landlord? 

  • How many properties do you own? 

  • How long did the last tenants live there? 

  • Where did those tenants go? 

  • Who is responsible for making repairs? 

  • What is your preferred method of contact for general questions/concerns? Emergencies? 

Questions for references 
  • When did you rent from the landlord? 

  • How long did you live in the rental? 

  • Why did/are you moving? 

  • How responsive is/was the landlord to repairs or late rent? 

  • How was your security deposit returned? 

  • Was the landlord respectful to you and your property? 

  • Did the landlord give you proper notice to end the rental agreement? 

  • Would you rent from this landlord again? 

Other ways to screen a landlord 
  • Search the public records to verify municipal code compliance where applicable. 

  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau, Rental Review Websites, the City or County Chamber of Commerce. 

  • Conduct interviews—visit the neighbors. 

  • Find out how long people stay. 

  • Find out why the previous tenants left from a neighbor if possible. 

  • Read the entire rental or lease agreement. Never sign a rental agreement that you have not read completely—including the tiny fine print at the bottom of each page. 

  • Look at the other properties the landlord owns. Drive by those properties to see how the landlord maintains his properties.