South Africa

Don’t rush into a lease agreement without considering these five things

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A person ticking a box next to a flat image of a house

Tenants often feel rushed into signing rental property lease agreements for fear of losing out to rival candidates.

In the Western Cape, currently the most expensive province in which to rent, rental properties are snapped up in a matter of days by up-country residents looking to semi-grate to the coast region. 

Michelle Dickens, CEO at PayProp, says there are a few key considerations for tenants looking to commence a rental lease. “The fear of losing a perfect ‘property match’ is real, but tenants should tick the proverbial box on the following five items before putting pen to paper. Take a moment to ensure that you’re entering into a proper lease with a professional rental agency for a home that’s right for you.”

Document all agreements in writing

During the process of viewing and agreeing to rent a certain property, many conversations are had between agent, landlord and tenant. Topics might include the allocation of parking, repairs or even the removal of certain items of furniture. It’s vital that all of these items are documented in the final lease agreement to avoid any misunderstandings or surprises down the line. 

Get to know your agent 

It’s likely that during the course of your tenancy, you’ll interface at least monthly with the property professional assigned to manage the property. Take a moment while deciding on the property to get to know your agent and understand how they work. How do they want you to pay rent? What are their procedures when something goes wrong? Do they perhaps make use of a property management platform like PayProp, offering a tenant portal to make your life easier with automated invoicing, payment tracking and professional money handling?

Visit the property more than once

If your first visit to the rental property in question was in the morning, possibly on a warm sunny day, then it’s vitally important to visit the property again under different conditions. An evening visit or a colder day will help you understand how light and temperature affect your new home. Visiting twice also helps you to notice all possible idiosyncrasies.

Carefully document the condition of the property

Once your lease agreement expires, an inspection of the property will be done to ascertain whether there has been any damage. In the event that damaged or faulty items are found, the cost to repair these items will be deducted from your initial damage deposit, unless they were listed in the property inspection at the start of the lease. As a tenant, you should accompany the agent for this inspection to ensure that nothing is missed, and make sure you’re happy with their report before signing. 

Understand any additional charges

Tenants are responsible for various additional charges that are included and itemised in the lease agreement. These often include electricity usage, water usage, refuse removal, sewerage and sanitation, and sometimes WiFi, parking or a surcharge on maintenance. When you budget for your rented accommodation, include all the additional costs that you are liable for as well as the rent.

Dickens says the excitement of finding the perfect rental property, coupled with the pressure of securing the tenancy means that many of these items are often overlooked. “Take the time to understand the legal agreement you’re getting yourself into and you’ll find a home – and a housing provider – that are right for you.”

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