What should I ask before I sign a lease on a Tampa apartment?

Before you sign on the dotted line, it's good to be sure of what exactly you're signing. Signing a lease can be a daunting proposition – especially if it's your first time renting. However, if you ask questions and know what exactly you're getting into, signing a lease shouldn't be too difficult. The good news: every time it gets easier!

Find out about your rent. How much is it? What day of the month is it due? Is there a grace period, and if so, how long? Are water, utilities, or cable included in rent? If they aren't, what's an estimate of what your electric or water might be? What is the penalty for paying late? What payment methods are available to you (online, check, mail, credit card)? Is renter's insurance required? What lease terms are available (6 month, 12 month, etc)? Are shorter lease terms more expensive per month? How much is the security deposit? Is it refundable? The process of paying rent for your Tampa apartment is a very important part of your lease to understand.

Find out about customizing your Tampa apartment. Are you allowed to put nails in the wall, and if so, up to how big? Are you allowed to paint? Are you allowed to add improvements, like a built-in closet or additional light fixtures?

Find out what happens when you move on from your apartment in Tampa. What if you want to terminate the lease early? Do you have to provide notice of your departure? Even if your lease ends next August, you may be required to inform the landlord of your intention to move out 30, 60, 90 days before your lease ends. Does your lease renew automatically if you do not provide notice? What is their process between tenants (do they clean, make repairs, etc)?

Find out about extra warm bodies in your Tampa apartment. Is there a limit on how long your guests can stay with you? Are you allowed to sublease? Can you have a roommate later on? Are you allowed to have pets? Is there a weight limit or breed restriction on pets? What about pets in aquariums, terrariums, or cages? It's better to understand the rules now, rather than after you've broken them. Even if you didn't know something wasn't allowed, you are responsible. Not reading your lease doesn't excuse you – signing it is certifying that you agree to follow what is written.

Find out about things outside your Tampa apartment. What is the parking policy? Do you only receive a certain number of spots? How close will your parking be to your apartment? What amenities do they offer (pool, tennis court, dog run, etc)? Are your guests allowed to enjoy these amenities with you?

Find out about maintenance. What emergency maintenance do they offer? What is considered an emergency? Do they offer a guarantee for other maintenance requests (within 48 hours, for example)? What maintenance issues will you be held responsible for (for example, forgetting to change the air filter- causing air conditioning issues)? What is their protocol for entering the apartment?

This may seem like a lot of questions– and it is. You may have more that are specific to your situation – write these down if you think you might forget. Some of the answers may be available on the apartment's website. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to about your Tampa Bay apartment. Whoever goes over your lease with you should be willing and ready to answer all questions that you have. It's much better to ask than to sign something you don't understand! Don't worry about sounding stupid – they get these questions all the time. As they go over the lease with you, take time to read it and ask for clarification on anything that you don't understand about your Tampa apartment. After you feel that you fully understand your lease, signing it will not seem like such a daunting task.

These are the opinions of writers and not the opinions of RentTampaBay.com or any of our advertising partners.