Renting 101

Along with decreased affordability of property, the stringent requirements of the National Credit Act and banks' recently developed aversion to 100 percent mortgages, renting the flat or house you live in gained favour amongst many people in the last few years.

In addition, falling home prices and the expectation of further declines have swayed many would-be buyers to rent while adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

With residential property languishing on the market for many months on end, lots of sellers have decided to rent their homes out — a boon to renters as the jump in inventory puts them in a favourable bargaining position.

Renters have a lot going for them right now, but they still need to be informed in order to make the right decisions and not get ripped off.

Just about everyone rents a flat or house at some point in their lives, whether by choice or circumstance. However, judging by the lack of information available to assist renters, you wouldn't say so.

To rectify the situation, here are some tips on renting a home:

Explore the area

Take your time to scout the area you're interested in and make sure you really want to live there. Most leases force you to commit for at least six months or a year, way too long if you're unhappy — or unsafe — in the neighbourhood you chose.

Drive to the area you are investigating, get out and explore on foot. You'll notice much more and will get a better feel for the place than would otherwise be possible.

If you have children, don't forget to investigate the local schools.

Find a place

Find a place that's right for you. Consider things like safety and proximity to public transport, highways, shops or other amenities you might need. You should also be able to comfortably afford the place you rent — don't ever spend more than 25 percent of your gross salary on rent.

Check the classified ads and property sections of a variety of daily and weekly newspapers and ensure everyone at work and in your social circle knows you are on the hunt.

Enquire at all the estate agencies which have rental properties on their books in the areas you are interested in, not only the large and well-known ones.

There are a host of rental property databases on the internet. Here are some of my favourites:

  • www.sarental.co.za
  • www.justletting.co.za
  • www.propertyrent.co.za
  • www.rentproperty.co.za

Surprisingly, I find www.gumtree.co.za to be the best source for finding rental properties. Most estate agents have caught on and also advertise on Gumtree.

Take your time

You need to view several places to get a sense of what represents a good deal — don't rent the first place you find.

If you find a place you like, check everything carefully.

Make a checklist and measure the places you visit against it. This is what your checklist might look like:

  • Distance to work, school, mall, etc?
  • What does the bathroom look like? Does everything work well?
  • What are the monthly bills for water and electricity? Are these included in the rent?
  • Is there a garage or garages? Is there undercover parking? Can I lock my car behind a gate? Is there off-street parking available?
  • Are there laundry facilities close by? Are there carpets? Is there an air-conditioner? Are there built-in cupboards? Is there a stove, etc?
  • How close is the place to a grocery store, police station, convenience store, petrol station, etc?

You'll probably see scores of properties so it might be a good idea to take some pictures and write down what you thought of each one.

Don't put up with discrimination

No landlord may discriminate on the basis of race, nationality, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Have your references ready

Before entering into negotiations with the landlord or managing agent have the details of your references (e.g. past and present employers, past and present landlords or agents, bank statements, etc.) ready.

Everything is negotiable

If you like a place, but not the rental then you simply must haggle over the price. It's important to know when you hold the upper hand. For example, if the property is empty when you view it they'll be very eager to get someone in. In this case, make a reasonable offer below what they're asking.

Article by: Kabous le Roux - www.iafrica.com