Renting

First-Time Tenant? 5 Things You Need to Know!

Get to know some important elements of the renting process!

Young people are pouring into South African towns in search of jobs, money-making opportunities and a general modern lifestyle.

The first and easiest accommodation option for them is renting.

Many of them are students or other young people who just moved out of their family homes.

First-time tenants are not always familiar with the process of renting and they might not always understand what it is that they need to do to make a good first impression on their landlords!

Here are 5 important tips that you as a first-time tenant need to know:

#1 — Use a reputable agency

The very first thing that you need to do is to contact a reputable real estate agency that specializes in renting in the area that you want to live in.

This is probably the easiest solution for a first-timer tenant as that company has already built up a reputation and they will know the ins and outs of the renting process. Plus, it’s also a safer option as the agency protects your rights and your finances.

If you are a student looking for rental accommodation, you can speak to the student advisory office on campus and they will know which reputable agency to direct you to.

#2 — Time to get prepared

You have to be prepared, so make sure that you bring your ID document, proof of current residence (even if it is your family home or another home where you lived outside of the city), most recent 3-month bank statements, driver’s license, proof of employment or registration at your current educational institution.

Students should also bring official notification of any student loans, bursaries or rental assistance that you might have received from the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme).

And of course, in case they request copies, it never hurts to make certified copies of these as well ahead of time!

#3 — Check your credit history

You should also prepare yourself that the agency is likely going to be asking for your credit history.

Even if you have no bank account or even if you have never applied for credit, they need to make sure that there are no official judgements against you, that you have not been blacklisted, have no history of defaulting on rent previously and have no criminal record.

They are, however, only allowed to do this with your permission, but obviously, proving that you have a clean slate will definitely set you ahead of those who don’t!

#4 — Pay the deposit

Next up will be to pay the security deposit, which usually consists out of one month’s rent.

You may also be asked to pay for utilities like water, lights and other municipal services in advance.

Bear in mind that reputable agencies will never ask for a deposit unless you have seen the property!

So, if you were to go about finding a rental by yourself (via online ads etc), be wary of people who pressurize you to ‘book’ the house and pay the security deposit. They might be out to scam you.

All-in-all, it might then take a few days before you can move in after you paid the deposit. Plus, there is going to be some lease paperwork that needs to be processed.

#5 — Lease agreement stuff

Once you found the place that you like (and can afford!), it’s time to talk signing the lease agreement.

The agreement between landlord and tenant will state a handful of vital points: how the property may be used, how many people can stay there, who will be responsible for the property, the monthly rental amount and the deposit due.

Make sure you have read and understand the entire lease before you sign! Pay particular attention to the time period on the contract. It must also state what the landlord will do with your deposit and whether it will be returned.

And last, but not least, never be shy to ask questions! Any of those so-called ‘stupid questions‘ can give you a lot of very valuable information.

For example, you ought to know what the lease stipulates as being your contract rights with regards to the Consumer Protection Act, which Rental Tribunal to turn to in the event there’s a serious dispute with your landlord, or how much advance notice you are required to give if you decide to cancel the agreement.

Closing thoughts

Taking the first steps into the property market as a first-time renter can be quite daunting!

Perhaps another way to look at this process would be to compare it a job interview: the candidate needs to do the necessary homework ahead of time, spruce up the resume, and make sure the references are aware of what’s going down.

Assuming one gets hired, and just like any other human resource checklist, you won’t be able to start the job before you’ve filled out all the necessary paperwork and signed on the ‘dotted line‘!

Good luck!


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