First and foremost, you should read the lease contract. Subject to few exceptions, once you sign the contract, you will be bound by all the provisions it contains. If you do not understand something written in the lease, ask your potential landlord to clarify. If you still do not understand, contact an attorney to review it with them. Do not sign it, move in, or pay any amount of money to your potential landlord until you read and completely understand the contract.
Do not rely on oral representations. Get all lease terms that you’ve agreed on in writing and signed by the landlord. If something is important to you, such as a repair the landlord has promised to do before move-in, get it in writing. If you do not get a lease provision in writing it can be very difficult to enforce your provision later.
If you disagree with any part of the lease contract, you have the right to request the landlord change it. However, the landlord does not have to agree to make the changes.
You should also make a record of pre-existing damage to the rental unit. Your landlord should allow you to inspect the property, including the appliances, electrical system, plumbing, heating, lights, as well as locks and windows. If you find anything damaged or malfunctioning, you should write a list (if your landlord doesn’t provide a form for you) before you sign the lease. You should present the list to your potential landlord before you sign the lease, and request your landlord sign the list as well. You should take good, thorough photographs of the condition of the rental unit as soon as your lease begins, and at the end of your lease, after you are done cleaning and ready to move out.