So you've picked an apartment in Atlanta. Congrats. You are decisive. You've actually made it to the point of leasing (after the credit check and application process), and you're ready to sign a few — okay, more than a few — papers. It helps to go in knowing what you're really putting your signature next to. And after that, you could gain some seriously good karma by simply being a swell neighbor. More on that in a minute.
Lucky for you, leases in Georgia come in a pretty standardized form. As a matter of fact, the Georgia Apartment Association has streamlined the process with a set of papers that are widely used throughout Atlanta. Here's what you'll usually find in these ...
Time: Leases are usually a year but can also be six months or month-to-month. Generally speaking, the shorter the lease term the higher the rent; you pay a premium for the ability to pick up and go.
Money: The two biggies are rent and the deposit. You probably know what rent is. Deposits vary but all serve the same purpose, which is to ensure the landlord has money should there be damage to the apartment at the end of the lease. Got a dog or cat? Expect to cough up extra cash. Sometimes you get the money back at if there's nothing to be fixed. There's also a fee for late rent; the point at which rent is considered late is up to the individual landlord. If there's an early termination option you can also expect to pay dearly for it — typically one month's rent.
Fine print: Sure it's boring, but it's there for a reason ... fine print in a lease lays out some important stuff. For example, be sure to check when a notice of non-renewal is required, otherwise you could run into a situation where your lease is extended when you want to bail. Be aware that the landlord is able to enter the apartment without prior notice if it's for the purpose of maintaining the unit. Also, many complexes put restrictions on subletting, which is basically a lease within a lease.
Addendums: These are the papers stapled to the lease. Usually you'll have one that lays out the community rules, down to restrictions on water beds (for obvious reasons). If your place was built before 1978, expect a lead paint disclosure form. There's also a utility billing addendum, laying out whether they're the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord. And even if you don't have a pet, there's a whole addendum you'll sign concerning animals. The bastards!
And now ... The Top Three Pointers for Being a Good Neighbor:
If you've grown up in a single-family home complete with yard and fence, living in an apartment takes some getting used to. On top, down below, side to side - neighbors are suddenly everywhere! If you're going to participate in communal living, there's a few things you can do to ensure you don't get a bad rap as "that guy (or gal) down the hall."
Tone down the noise. If there's anything people hate is hearing things they don't want to hear. Whether it's music, yapping dogs, upstairs footsteps or fantastic sex, sound is probably the most irritating part about living in close quarters. This doesn't just go for noisy apartments: Atlanta's apartment pools are notorious for their anything-goes parties.
Keep a clean house. Two key points with this one. For one, if you're place smells, chances are it's going to waft into the hallway. We all despise wafting. And people will think you're gross. Secondly, a dirty place tends to attract critters. Which you might not mind, but chances are your neighbors will when they migrate for more crumbs.
Control your animals. Besides the aforementioned noise, animals can get annoying on other levels. Mainly we're talking about dogs here. If you take Fido outside and he lays a big one, don't just walk away like nothing happened. This goes extra for presents deposited in a hallway or elevator. Also, keep your hound under control, please; there's a leash law for a reason.
Now you're all set! Go forth and make that landlord some moolah!
— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Jonathan Carnright