Searching for a new apartment can be a frustrating experience and may be even more exhausting than the homebuying process. In addition to looking for an apartment in the right neighborhood and featuring the necessary amenities, you also have to pay attention to the lease. While people often assume most leases are the same, signing without taking the time to read the lease thoroughly can put you in an even worse situation.

Before You Read the Lease…

Your research doesn’t begin with the lease, though reading it is important. You should also do some research on the property itself, especially if it’s a privately owned property and not a larger commercially-owned apartment community. Private owners facing foreclosure will still rent out their properties and require first and last month’s rent with a security deposit. This is a significant amount of money, which you’ll likely lose if the house is in foreclosure.

Be Wary of a Mold Clause

When you do read the lease, pay special attention to waivers that may be included. Real estate agents and attorneys agree it’s a bad idea to sign off on any type of mold waiver, because the mere fact that it’s required suggests that there may be a mold problem. Heat and moisture can cause mold, so be especially wary if you live in a humid climate. Mold growth can cause serious health risks, as well as property damage.

Don’t Sign a Lease Until You’ve Seen the Property

If the property owner wants you to sign the lease first, this can be a sign that there are significant problems with the unit. Additionally, make sure you’re being shown the exact unit that you’ll be occupying. You should be made aware of any damages or deficiencies with the property prior to signing your lease.

Look for a Clause That Outlines Financial Responsibilities

Some property owners create an informal rental agreement that may be missing key elements. For instance, the lease may not outline who is responsible for paying for repairs and damages. If the property owner seems reluctant to detail these points in writing, he may be planning to leave you holding the bag. There are plenty of form leases available online that contain clauses that address these issues. Ensuring your lease has this clause helps you understand in advance what maintenance repairs you will be responsible for paying.

There are many more reasons you should take the time to read your lease. If you find something that bothers you, bring it to the attention of the property owner. It may be a simple oversight that’s easily corrected. If they’re unwilling to compromise on the issue, you may be better off to continue your search for an apartment with more favorable lease terms.