05 Oct 2012
Most people start looking for rental homes or flats by scanning the online property ads, but there are a few things to think about before leaping in.
Wayne Albutt, National Manager for the Rawson Property Group’s Rental Franchise Division, gives the following tips for tenants who looking to find accommodation.
The first fact that has to be accepted by any person planning to rent in South Africa, says Albutt, is that demand very definitely outstrips supply at the moment and this means that the tenant will struggle to find accommodation.
Nevertheless, he says, tenants should take to heart the fact that landlords are, by law, not allowed to discriminate against any person on any grounds other than a poor credit record or an inability to afford the rental property. This is commonly calculated on his rental being less than one-third of his total income or, more accurately, upon the tenant’s monthly net surplus after paying for necessities, explains Albutt.
“The landlord has every right to reject your application if, after receiving your permission to investigate your credit records and previous tenant performances (this is an essential first step), he then discovers you have a tarnished financial or tenant behaviour record.”
ITC, Experian and TPN (Tenant Profile Network), says Albutt, are the tools most commonly used in these investigations.
The right way to go about finding suitable rental premises, he says, is to visit one or two agencies serving the area you favour and to get them to do the essential checks on your credit standing before you start looking at properties, so that you do not waste your time or that of the agent. This also gives the agent an opportunity of getting to understand your needs better. Most agents, however, do not opt for this approach as it means spending considerable time with potential tenants which they might consider to be unproductive.
Tenants also, says Albutt, tend to work ‘the wrong way round’: they scan the web looking for a suitable property and then go to the agent handling it, inspect it and make an offer – after which the credit checks begin. In these cases, inevitably, a fairly high percentage of the applications will eventually prove unsatisfactory, due either to credit failures or to the fact that the property is let quickly to a creditworthy tenant through a different agent before the application process is completed. On average, a good rental property is usually let between one and ten days if the agency is competent.
Once your credit and other details have been cleared, says Albutt, it is essential to keep telephoning the agent regularly, because in today’s market, with demand so strong, clients will probably be treated on a first-come, first-served basis – and the most persistent applicants will be the most successful.
Once you have agreed to a lease, says Albutt, it is important to take two further steps. The first is to insist, as you have a legal right to do, that the lease is put in writing. Landlords are permitted in law to make verbal statements, but tenants still have the right to an agreement of lease in writing.
Albutt says this can be very important if disputes arise later. "In these cases one wants to avoid the 'I said, you said' situation which can result from purely verbal agreements.”
Secondly, the tenant must insist on doing a complete incoming inspection, at which every defect or potential problem should be listed in writing and the full report should then be signed by both parties.
This inspection report must be jointly carried out by both landlord/agent and the tenant before occupation and prior to the finalisation of the lease agreement, so as to ascertain what defects or damage were evident before the tenant took occupation. If this is not done, the tenant could find himself being held responsible for problems he did not cause at the end of his lease.
Albutt adds that tenants should take great care to ensure that the landlord differentiates between normal wear and tear, for which the tenant cannot be held to blame, and straightforward damages which are for the tenant’s account.
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