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How to rent an apartment or home

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Since the beginning of time, big cities all over the world see an influx of people streaming in, each year, in search of better working and educational opportunities, and seeking the big city way of living.

With this comes more and more people looking for suitable accommodation for themselves or their families. Since the ’90s, there has been a drastic rise in the number of people that rent. Most people find it easier; as it doesn’t require one to make a long-term commitment to the property, the stress of maintaining the property lies in the landlord's hands, and for many, it’s a much more affordable way of living. Renting sure does have plenty of perks, but don’t be fooled, there is a risk of hiccups along the way, especially for first-time renters. First timers aren’t always familiar with the process and can be a little naive. This can cause some serious issues, especially if one is not aware of scams, or what is expected from both parties.

To save yourself from hassle, and finding yourself in a tricky situation, we have drawn up a list of everything you should know, and consider, as the renter. It’s a process that requires trust between two parties and calls for one to be fully aware of what they’re signing up for. It is still a contract, whether it’s for the long-haul or not, and for this reason it’s vital that you educate yourself fully on the renting procedure. If all parties know what is expected of them, it will make for a much easier, stress-free process.

Thoroughly Inspect the Apartment

Before even considering signing any documentation, and before you ask the big questions, thoroughly inspect the apartment. This will not only give you a good idea of the way in which the landlord handles situations (or lack thereof), but also gives you an idea of what needs attention before you decide to agree to a rental. Look for any broken plugs, light switches and bulbs, cracked tiles, faulty taps or shower heads. Keep an eye for any faulty windows that may not close or lock. Anything that would need attention from the landlord should be established prior to you signing on the dotted line.

What are the Costs Involved and is it Reasonable?

Other than establishing the cost of the rent-which is probably the first bit of information that you should find out, you need to understand a few other things. A vital aspect to establish is what the escalation cost is. This is the rise in the rental rate, the following year. In South Africa, the average escalation rate is around 7.5%. This will allow you to decide whether you’ll be able to afford living there, the following year, after your move-in date. No-one wants to be moving around like a nomad every year, so prepare yourself for the potential increases in the rental rates, to avoid the risk of looking for another property in the near future.

Another great question to ask is whether there is an upfront deposit that needs to be paid. Private renting parties often want an upfront deposit, that can sometimes be the total renting costs of 3 months’ rent. Any more than this is unusual and should be challenged by you, as the potential renter.

Establish the Small Details

It may help to ask whether you will get a parking bay, inclusive of the agreement, and if so, how many, especially if you will be staying in an apartment or flat. Other small details include your contract rights, with regards to the Consumer Protection Act  – these should be stipulated in your lease agreement, as well as the notice you’d need to give, should you want to move out. Find out what you can and can’t do to the property, such as painting or drilling holes. Perhaps you want to add a film to windows, for privacy or other reasons, especially if it’s a flat that faces other properties. You need to ask your landlord these questions, before making any sort of change.

What are Your Responsibilities as the Renter?

The responsibilities that you’d be signing up for, as the renter, would include; ensuring the home or apartment is maintained in the most basic ways. Such as maintaining the garden, washing the windows and so on. It’s your responsibility to let the landlord know of any major areas that need maintaining and attention. For example; cleaning and maintaining the pool, fixing up of troublesome appliances, such as electrical or plumbing issues.

Most landlords also make it the responsibility of the renter to forward the municipal accounts to them so that they can see to the payments in good time.

Opt for a Written Lease

Whenever there is a contract or a situation that requires commitment from both parties, one should always sign a written agreement, which would come in the form of a lease. This will ensure you are protected, should things go wrong, and will ensure you have a form of reference. If the landlord is unsure of how a contract is written up, it would help to advise that they call in a firm that offers legal services surrounding properties and contracts.

The lease should state the amount of time the lease is valid for, how many people can stay there, the responsibilities of each party, the rental amount, the deposit that is due and any other relevant information.

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