If you've never rented an apartment (or any kind of home) before, you can make a lot of mistakes.In most cases that would make for a good learning experience, but tenants mistakes are often a little costly and landlords and rental agents aren't always forgiving.
Thankfully, Just Property, have put together a handy checklist to help you to ask the right questions and check for common problems when choosing to rent for the first time.
Budget smart to avoid hassles
Know what you can afford to pay for rent up front. Ideally, rent should make up no more than 30% of your income. Being certain that you can afford the rent is the first and most important question to ask yourself.
Some landlords may provide you with a ‘grace period’ for late payments. This is not set in stone though, so make sure this understanding is agreed upon before renting and is written into the lease. A landlord may also charge “reasonable” fees for late rent. Usually, it’s a flat fee, which kicks in a day or two after the due date.
Know your responsibilities when renting
When renting, little problems can turn into big problems if you are not aware of who is responsible for taking care of the issues that may arise.
As a tenant you are obliged to do the following:
The landlord is obliged to:
Securing your first apartment
A lease is a legally binding document. Be certain that you understand what’s covered in a residential lease agreement. Ask your rental agent/landlord, or a lawyer, any questions before signing a lease.
One-time fees such as security, pet, and utilities deposits can add up. The good news though is that if you take care of the property, and abide by the lease, you should get some, or all, of your deposits back when you move.
Paul Stevens, CEO of Just Property suggests that, after everyone has signed or co-signed the lease agreement with the landlord, it would be a good idea for you and any roommates to sign a co-tenancy agreement. “Spelling out responsibilities and liabilities for each person can prevent legal problems down the road,” says Stevens.
As a tenant, it’s your right to live in a safe and habitable environment. Both you and your landlord have certain maintenance responsibilities for the apartment. To that end, inspect your new apartment and take note of any concerns or necessary repairs on an inspection form that is crucial to be signed.
“It’s a good idea to put your tenant repair requests in writing. Within a reasonable length of time, your landlord/rental agent has an obligation to respond. If you need to make a complaint to your landlord/rental agent, again, do it in writing as this keep a clear track record of communication,” advises Paul Stevens.
Never let a structural defect, health hazard, or community concern just sit. Telling your landlord/rental agent about problems immediately can protect you from liability when you move out.
General Property Maintenance
General maintenance of the property falls in the ambit of the landlord or landlord’s insurer if adequate cover is in place. So, provided you haven’t caused the damage yourself, then repairs relating to paintwork, plumbing, ceilings, fittings, doors and windows will fall in this category.
There may be cases where a repair is urgent and if the landlord consents then the tenant can use his or her own provider to tend to the work, for example in the case of a running tap. The invoice can then be submitted to the landlord for reimbursement. Additional installations and fittings need to be first authorised by the property owner and in these situations the cost is borne by the tenant. If it is an irremovable improvement to the property, then tenant can request that the landlord consider coming in for half the expense or a portion thereof.
Lastly here, it is your responsibility as the tenant to ensure that the property is returned in the same state as at inception. Damages or losses established at the final inspection will warrant the landlord/rental agent to deduct such costs from the rental deposit. Should the landlord/rental agent not recover the amount for outstanding fees such as rental and repair expenses, then the landlord can proceed with legal action.
It is your responsibility as the tenant to use the property for the consented purpose of stay for the agreed number of occupants. If this is violated in any way or if there is misrepresentation then the landlord can cancel the lease and proceed with recoveries as well as possible legal action.
However, it terms of contract law, the terms and conditions of the lease will come down to what was eventually presented and accepted when the agreement was concluded. Even though tenants do have recourse in the event that some of the terms may conflict with the law, for instance, it is certainly best to avoid this undesirable path.
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