Red flags to note when renting

BY TAMEKA GORDON Assistant business co-ordinator

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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THREE months after renting the house, you realise that your landlord is a tyrant. What did you do wrong? You may not have heeded the warning signs, say realtors.

As with any other matter relating to property, careful thought must be placed in deciding from whom to rent or lease. While noting that it is more prudent to rent through an established agency, Remax associate Anya Levy recommended that prospective tenants "interview" landlords before entering into contracts.

There are certain "bad vibes" that can be noted in an interview with the prospective landlord, Levy said.

If, for example, "the landlord cannot or refuses to provide conclusive answers to your queries, forget it", she advised.

Noting anecdotal experiences of clients who have had run-ins with bad landlords, Levy warned that an "uncompromising stand" by a landlord is a "red flag". For instance, if one expresses an interest in a property but asks that it be repainted, and the landlord does not commit to this being done, she said.

"Never be tricked into believing that repairs will be effected to the property after you have paid over your money and moved in," Derobah Cumming said.

The role of an experienced agent or realtor, by the Century 21, managing director's reckoning, "is to circumvent" these issues.

Realtors will ask the questions you are afraid to ask and negotiate the best deal, she said.

Issues such a proof of ownership of the property and a tenancy agreement must, on the advise of the experts, be discussed and agreed upon, before handing over your cash.

The realtors contend that a written agreement outlining the roles and responsibilities of both parties must form part of any discussion on renting or leasing a property.

Tenancy agreements outline clear guidelines on matters pertaining to the collection and disposal of garbage, in the case of apartments, as well as rent or lease payment schedules and the consequences for breaches of these guidelines.

Describing the landlord and tenant relationship as a symbiotic one, Levy advised that prospective tenants consider drafting an agreement themselves if the landlord does not provide one.

The Rent Restriction Act stipulates that premises that are rented must be registered with the Rent Board.

However, ignoring this stipulation seems to be a common practice. The realtors, however, the necessity of a tenancy agreement, which is a legal document that protects the interest of the parties involved.

Rushing to ink a deal on a property is another common mistake tenants often make according to the realtors.

"The area may be widely sought after so tenants jump at the opportunity to pay down on a property believing that outstanding issues will be dissolved once they get in, this should never be done," Cumming said.

She advised would-berenters to recognise that though the property does not belong to them, it should be of no less quality than if it did.

"Bad landlords are those that do not issue receipts and do not ensure their tenants are comfortable," Cumming said.

She further noted that the changes to the strata regulations empower the Strata Commission to disconnect water supply or sell a property for which maintenance fees are owned.

By her reckoning, tenants should ensure they are provided with evidence of the landlord's compliance with strata regulations to avoid the possibility of being barred from the property, as this is another measure, which can be taken by the Commission.

The role of the landlord, by the realtors' reckoning, is to ensure the premises conforms to a "good tenable condition".

Levy also warned against the practice of would-be-tenants paying agencies to find houses on their behalf.

"All fees to the agency are paid by the landlord," the realtor said in dispelling the notion that using an agency to find a property is costly.

But while there is consensus that an agency makes the process smoother, realtors caution against "scam" rental agencies whose reputations and credentials cannot be validated.

"One has to exercise common sense in all dealings relating to money," Cumming warned.

She advised that an online search or mere "veranda conversation" with friends or relatives may steer one clear of dealing with a questionable agency.

The realtors further touted the benefit of having someone to cater to your desires for your abode, as among the benefits of renting with the guidance of an agency.

"Recognise that you are empowered because you are spending your money," Cumming said, "think and plan carefully, don't be hasty".

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