2. Read and understand the lease before signing.
3. Document the condition of the rental unit noting any flaws in the condition of anything, and any repairs needed with photos and in writing, before moving in.
4. Get a Realtor to help you and answer your questions, in person, so you don't have to rely on strangers on a website to get answers. I know someone who can help with that...contact me for details.
A client of mine gave verbal notice to his landlord with ample notice. He talked to the manager several times about moving out, the manager was in agreement.
Only when he turned in keys did the manager mention that it should have been in writing. He was month to month, and that expired Nov. 30, 2011. He moved out November 30, to comply with his notice and landlord requirements. He was later billed $3500 by the landlord for a winter move out. The lease stated that if he moved out Dec 1-March 1, he was responsible for rent during those months, and they charged him his security deposit for 'sanitation' of the apartment. Yes, we are fighting it, but save yourself the effort by knowing what is actually in the lease, and do not sign if you are not in agreement.
A relocation client wanted to rent a townhome in the west suburbs. That landlord had a 14 page lease. Really!
The client wanted me to read it, send him a synopsis. Not a good idea. Read it yourself, or have an attorney review it. If something is unclear, ask for clarification, and maybe even initial if there are changes.