Because let’s be honest for once: sometimes you really just do not have anyone to blame but yourself.
So this article isn’t really an answer to a particular question from an apartment hunter, and it’s not even necessarily 100% real estate-related. The advice here can be applied to all aspects of life, really. It’s something that I’ve noticed happening in transactions with some of you younger college-age folk and something way too many people complain about. Most of you reading this probably have enough sense in your heads to not need this advice. Some of you do not.
It appears that a great deal of you wondrous people seem to feel too rushed and pressured at a lease signing to thoroughly read your leases, and wind up signing on the dotted line without completely reading what you’re agreeing to first. Then, after the fact, you feel duped because there were certain parts of the lease that you were unaware of, containing stipulations that were detrimental to you, or caused you to waive something you didn’t realize you were waiving.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s make one thing crystal clear right now. If you sign a contract, you are 100% responsible for holding up every single word of your end of that contract. I know it seems like common sense to many of you, but you’d really be astonished at how many of mainly the younger generation have trouble grasping this concept. You can’t cry foul just because you signed something without reading it and then found yourself without a leg to stand on in a dispute. You knowingly and willingly entered into a contract with someone. Sorry, I typically lean in favor of tenant’s rights, but I have no sympathy for those of you who find yourselves in this predicament.
Just because you didn’t read and fully understand what you were signing doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for what you’re agreeing to. You cannot claim ignorance as a defense against having to hold up your end of the deal. You’re not going to score any points in a dispute by whining “but I didn’t get a chance to read it!” or “I didn’t know I was agreeing to that!” Please stop it. Being oblivious to what you’re agreeing to, or signing something you don’t agree to because you feel pressured to do so, and then admitting it openly to try to play the hapless-preyed-upon-tenant card, only helps in making you look like you have no brains.
If you’re 18 or older, you can’t just casually sign a legally binding document and then play the victim when you were the one who didn’t read what you were signing. It’s simply quite ridiculous for anyone operating under normal circumstances to ever, EVER sign anything without reading it first. That’s just common sense 101. And if you don’t agree with whatever it is you’re being asked to sign, well then, what should we do girls and boys?
Well, we can start by not signing it. You can cry pressure all you want, but you’re a grown woman or man willingly entering into an arrangement that involves you handing over a whole lot of money, and the other party handing you a whole lot of property. If you’re so easily pressured that you sign things because you’re afraid of appearing difficult, or afraid of not getting the space, or afraid of your own shadow, or afraid of whatever people are afraid of when they sign contracts without reading them, then maybe you’re not mature or smart enough yet to put yourself in the position of possibly having to sign contracts. That’s right. I said it.
If you’re in a meeting at a contract-signing, you have every right to sit there and read. Make them wait! They should expect that it’s going to take time, and if they don’t, too bad for them. You better believe that whatever is in that contract will trump whatever is agreed to verbally. Landlords know that. Landlords also tend to present leases that are designed to look out for their own interests, which you really can’t blame them for. So why do you feel guilty or uncomfortable about looking out for yours?
Unless you want to find yourself in a whole world of hurt down the line, you had better swallow your nerves, ignore those nagging thoughts in the back of your mind, and take that 10 to 20+ minutes of time to look out for yourself. Stop making your decisions based on fear; stop letting your anxiety make your choices for you. Sit there and read that contract. And take as long as you need!
If someone is trying to rush you, or is blocking your concentration by saying something to the effect of “It’s a standard lease. Everyone signs it!” Ignore them. Because it’s not true. And even if everyone does sign it, so what? What does that have to do with you? “Everyone” is not sitting there in that room getting ready to enter into that contract, now are they? Just politely say that you have to read it before you’re able to sign it. If they persist, just say is this:
“I’m sorry, but I just never sign anything without reading and understanding it first.”
See? I’m not telling you that you need to be rude, abrasive, insulting, or think that someone is out to scam or manipulate you. But you should never hesitate to speak up if you have something to say, or say no if you don’t want to do something. You have just as much right to protect your own interests as the landlord does, but it’s up to you to exercise that right. No one is going to do it for you.
My mother drilled it into my brain over the course of the many years she had absolute mind control over me to never sign anything without reading it first. I would like to pass these brilliant words of wisdom to my readers out there who just happen to be spring chickens like me. Not to say that you who aren’t spring chickens don’t count, it’s just that…well…let’s be honest. You’ve already learned the negotiation skills that come with age, and you have no problem speaking your mind and saying no at the risk of upsetting someone else. You’re not a spring chicken anymore. Right?
So that’s my rant/article for you fabulous readers out there. It’s harsh, but sometimes the truth via harsh words is the only thing that winds up saving you. The truth will set you free, honey.
No, you can’t request revisions to a contract after you’ve signed it. I mean, you can, but the answer will probably be either no or endless delays until you give up.
Yes, you’re still responsible for what you agreed to if you did something stupid like ignore my column and let your nerves convince you to sign it first and read it later.
Yes, I still think you’re a wonderful human being no matter what ridiculous mistakes you make with your lives.
Have a Real Estate question? Confused, unsure and stressed? Looking for honest advice in all the wrong places?
E-mail me here: Marsha.Murphy@elliman.com
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The contents of this article are in no way legal advice or information, and should not in any way be construed as such.