Renting

10 Questions to ask your Landlord before Renting

Story Highlights
  • 1) Are the utilities included in the rental amount?
  • 2) Can you make changes to the unit when renting?
  • 3) What is needed when signing the lease?
  • 4) Why are the current tenants not renting from the landlord anymore?
  • 5) Are pets allowed?
  • 6) Who is responsible for the maintenance during the renting period?
  • 7) How many parking spaces are available?
  • 8) Can tenants have guests over while renting?
  • 9) Are there any additional services included in the rental amount?
  • 10) Is there an emergency plan?

If you have experienced the renting process before, then you know how many questions landlords are prone to ask.

Many of them do thorough screenings before they let tenants sign the rental agreement.

But how many tenants have asked their landlords their own sets of questions?

Tenants might feel overwhelmed by landlords and their demands that they forget they are also allowed to hold their landlords to a certain standard.

Before signing the rental agreement, you must have all the information at hand.

Here are a few questions you should ask the landlord before renting. 

1) Are the utilities included in the rental amount?

Sometimes this is not spelt out in a listing or an advert but you must know whether utilities are included before you sign.

If it is not, you might have to adjust your budget or find a cheaper place to rent. 

2) Can you make changes to the unit when renting?

Many landlords are very particular when it comes to their unit so before you decide to paint the walls lime green, make sure that the landlord allows it.

If you make any changes before checking with the landlord, you might forfeit your deposit. 

3) What is needed when signing the lease?

Ask which documents are needed for the lease to be valid.

This might include bank statements, payslips, and your identity document.

You must also find out whether or not you will receive interest on your security deposit. 

Related Reading: Your Guide to Safely Cancelling Your Lease Agreement

4) Why are the current tenants not renting from the landlord anymore?

This is an important question and one that tenants often forget to ask. There is always a reason why someone decides to leave a rental unit.

It might be something totally mundane like they are moving out of town or buying a house.

But there might be a more sinister reason that could cause you to change your mind…

5) Are pets allowed?

If you have pets at your current property, they would need to come with you.

Find out whether the new rental unit (esp. if it’s located within a residential community/complex) is pet friendly or if your landlord is willing to make an exception.

Sometimes landlords do allow small animals as long as they don’t interfere with their own. 

Related Reading: 5 Important Tips for Renting with Pets

6) Who is responsible for the maintenance during the renting period?

Another question tenants forget to ask. Often the tenant expects the landlord to be responsible for maintenance.

There might, however, be a few things that they can expect from their tenants.

Determine who is responsible for what from the start. 

7) How many parking spaces are available?

Couples with two cars can find themselves in a bit of a pickle when they’re ready to move in but there is only space for one car.

Find out how many parking bays you can occupy and if there is guest parking available

8) Can tenants have guests over while renting?

Some landlords have rules about having guests over especially when it comes to parties or get-togethers. The noise element is always a concerning factor.

Find out whether you are allowed to have guests over and during which hours of the day.

If you have a semi-permanent partner that sleeps over often, you need to determine whether your landlord will be happy with this type of arrangement. 

9) Are there any additional services included in the rental amount?

Sometimes your rental amount or your levies only include your unit but different landlords or complexes have different rules.

Some landlords include their DSTV-bouquet in the rental amount as well as garden services, cleaning services, and internet services.

However, it is always a good idea to check first. You might have to pay an additional fee to the landlord or pay for these services separately. 

Related Reading: Benefits of Having a Prepaid Electricity Meter

10) Is there an emergency plan?

In South Africa, things are unpredictable at best. Except for load shedding which happens more often than not, an electric cable can break at any given time.

Similarly, a water pipe can burst, leaving the whole neighbourhood without water.

Losing access to electricity and water is a common occurrence and the landlord should have an emergency plan in place.

If you are without water for a week, is there a JoJo tank available, for example?

Will you be able to use the landlord’s generator to power your fridges if there is a power outage?

These are all things you need to find out before moving in. 

Final thoughts

You should never rush the renting process. Even though it is not as permanent as buying a house, it is still going to be a place that you call home for the next year at least.

If you want to avoid arguments and disputes with your landlord, ask as many questions as you can.

Don’t leave anything to chance and get as much information as possible before moving in. 


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