Do’s and don’ts when renting a home

At one point in your life, you might find yourself renting a home. Whether it’s for a three-bedroom house in a residential subdivision or a 20-square meter unit in a high-rise near your place of work, renting should be done with careful attention as it almost always involves a substantial part of your income.

To be sure, renting a home comes with many advantages. It allows you a measure of flexibility, in that you can easily give up the property should your personal circumstances change. If your work location changes, or your children will be enrolling in a different school in another side of town, you might find it more economical to rent some other dwelling closer to your new daily destinations. This is not something you would have when you own a house, since disposing off a property involves time, money, and considerable documentary work.

Renting a home, though, still requires you to be vigilant. In renting a home, you will be dealing extensively with your landlord. Some unit owners engage the services of a property services management company, which will deal with you on your rental concerns. The terms and conditions of your rental contract is something that you and your landlord both have to be comfortable with. Should changes arise in these terms during the course of your stay, you have to discuss this with the owner to come up with a mutually acceptable arrangement.

So before you take out your pen and sign off the dotted line on that rent, here are some points to consider:

Do your research.

Make sure you know as much as you can about the area and the property itself. Ask some pertinent questions: does the area get flooded during the rainy season? Is security a cause for concern? Does the ceiling leak and do the drainage systems work? Who are your neighbors going to be? Are they too rowdy and too noisy for your family? Who was the former tenant and what was his experience in the area? Is your landlord fair and agreeable?

Are services like water going to be offered to you straight by the utility company or will these be coursed through the homeowners’ association? If so, how will this affect your utility bills? If you are dealing with a property management services company, what do people have to say about their services? Visit the area several times and explore it on foot to have a better feel of the property.

Stay within your limits.

It may be tempting to rent that nice home with the jacuzzi and the gym, but make sure you have the financial capacity to do so. Most finance experts recommend that you spend no more than a third of your income on housing expenses.

Haggle over price.

There is nothing wrong with haggling over the price for the unit that you want to rent. You might not get a positive answer, but if you do, you can definitely put the savings to good use.


If you have a car, is there a safe place for you to park in? How much will it cost? Finding a secure place for your car every night can be stressful so best to make sure there are arrangements in place.

Discuss the terms and conditions of the rent thoroughly before signing the contract.

You would like to be very clear on the terms of the rental contract. Make sure there are no hidden costs. If there is a deposit and an advance payment, discuss how these will be accounted for and when or how you will get these back. Find out if the deposit is refundable, and when. Ask if the advance payment will be given back to you in cash, or if you will be allowed to use it up towards the end of your contract.

Discuss the mode of payment.

Agree on a mutually convenient payment system. You may wish you make payments through post-dated cheques or through bank deposits, on a set date. Make sure both parties are clear on this.

Check escalation clauses.

Make sure you are clear about possible automatic increases in your rental payment when you renew your contract. Also discuss with your landlord how often he expects to raise prices, so that you may be better able to anticipate your cash needs.

Make an inventory of the property.

Before moving in, go through everything in the property. Check out for broken plumbing, electrical or other fixtures that need attention and point these out to the landlord. If the unit is fully furnished, go through each and every appliance and furniture to make sure these are in working order. Discuss all these with the landlord. Don’t be afraid to take pictures of walls, rooms, carpets and so on to record the state of them as you move in. If you do this make sure you email them to the agent so they can be kept on file.

Discuss maintenance of the property.

Make sure you know what your landlord expects you to cover in terms of maintenance. In general, the property owner is in charge of maintenance costs, but there are other items you might want to discuss. For instance, who will pay for a pipe that gets clogged? Also look at utilities and services. Payment of electricity and water will most likely be to your account, but ask about meter deposits, subdivision or homeowners’ association dues, and other related fees.

Don’t forget insurance.

Do ask your landlord about fire and property insurance, and what this covers.