Red Flags to Look for When Renting an Apartment

During long-term travel renting an apartment and staying put for a while can be a great way to really experience a foreign culture to the fullest.

Renting your own apartment can be liberating and very enjoyable, but you need to be sure you have covered all the basics and avoided the standard pitfalls before signing on the dotted line. You need to be sure of what is included in the contract and what not, and you need to be happy with the condition of your apartment before moving in. Here are some standard areas you need to have properly covered before renting an apartment.

You need to have a contract, and it needs to be formal and official and preferably signed by a transferring attorney. Your contract needs to stipulate the rental period, which is when you are responsible for payment to your landlord, and the full and final rental sum, ensuring that that you are for example not additionally being charged to pay the rental agency’s management fee, which of course is payable by the landlord.

Aside from the rental amount, there needs to be clarity on the dates on which payment is due, and if you are signing an extended two year lease for example, then any future rental increases need to be clearly stipulated. Most landlords require a security deposit to cover any losses or damage which you might incur and be liable for, which is legal, though try ensure that your deposit is accumulating bank interest. Most importantly though, you need to be clear on exactly what potential losses the security deposit is being held to cover, and that they are indeed your legal responsibility. Take photos of any pre-existing damage/wear and tear.

Naturally you need to know whether consumables like water, gas and electricity are included or not in your rental. in some places you have to pay for rubbish collection also. If you are paying additionally for utilities, then organize with the individual utility companies as to when you are taking over responsibility for the power bill. Pay as you go electricity meters are better options for tenants as you have direct control over consumption and payment. Also be clear that there are no common property water and light costs that you might be made liable for over and above your own personal consumption, if living in a complex for example.

Parking is a troublesome issue sometimes, so ensure there is clarity on the parking allocation, and double check that you have been allocated legal parking if in a complex, and not common parking which you are not exclusively entitled to, for e.g have to move from during the holiday season.

Make sure there is clarity too re. friends or family staying over, or if a flatmate moves in with you. The landlord may want extra payment, especially for the latter. If you are renting a furnished apartment, it is essential to do a stock take on every item and its condition, with the landlord accompanying you, to record which items which will be subject to normal usage, so that you don’t have your security deposit being used to replace the couch on your departure, for example.

Most importantly take note of the condition of your apartment and insure that it requires no maintenance before moving in. Often promises to repair leaking taps, damaged plugs, broken windows etc get delayed indefinitely once you have moved into an apartment and started paying rental. Make sure all repairs are completed up front ahead of moving in. Then have clarity on any future maintenance, who is responsible, and that there is reimbursement to you should you pay for a repair.

Finally make sure you know the rules if your apartment is part of a complex, and that you understand and are happy with its terms, as some can be rather conservative and contrary to your planned lifestyle. Know also the terms of termination of your contract. Be sure to get the name and contact number of the landlord for direct communication should your rental agent not be responding adequately to your queries.

Overall, finding an apartment can be the easy part when you search your local classified site such as Gumtree. There are tons of houses for rent online and even ads for roommates seeking roommates. Good luck with your search!

Image by Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.
This post was written in association with Gumtree.

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