There are quite a few tips you should consider before signing a lease. You should remember though as well, that just like purchasing a home, when you sign a lease, everything is still negotiable. Make sure to find out what is included in the monthly rent i.e Garbage, Water, Pool Service, Landscaping, etc., knowing these will help you figure out how to negotiate a proper Rent amount to pay monthly. Find out if there is a penalty for having to terminate the lease early. For example say you suddenly have to move for job relocation but you're only 4 months into your one year lease, can you get out of your lease without having to pay a penalty to the landlord.
Make sure you do a walk through with the landlord or Property Manager and ask what items will be available in the home. Some homeowners moving out of a home, but keeping it as an investment property might still be living in the home, so ask if the refrigerator, washer, dryer, are staying in the home. The last thing you want to assume is there will be a refrigerator only to move in and find out it wasn't part of the lease.
Negotiate rent increases with the landlord, find out when and how much they can increase your rent, and how long of a notice they are giving you prior to the increase.
Find out what rights you have if the landlord decides to sell the home while you're under a lease with them, what you will be expected to do during this time, and if there are any incentives for you to cooperate.
So as you can see there are a number of things you should be doing prior to signing a lease. I do recommend speaking with a Real Estate Agent or Property Manager who is familiar with lease rentals and can advise you on how to proceed. There may be a minimal fee for their service, but it can save you in the long run.
Good luck and happy home hunting!
Prudential California Realty