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Red Lights for Renters

By George Hadgelias

Renting a property is exciting, but nerve wracking. Even if you’re on top of things, you can’t control everything and everyone, and there’s always a small risk you’ll run into an unpleasant surprise.

To avoid finding yourself in a worrying situation, here’s a few things to look out for when you’re perusing the rental market. On their own, they mightn’t be a deal-breaker, but if there’s several at work you may want to reconsider before booking that moving truck.

Rent seems too good to be true

There’s a lot of money to be had in real-estate investments and typically a house owner will charge as much rent as they’re able to.

Occasionally you’ll find a property that’s both amazing and cheap but that’s usually the exception to the rule. If you’re looking at a property and the rent seems questionably cheap… question it. There may be a good reason that you’ll uncover if you ask (that impacts the desirability of the property).

It might be difficult to heat (leaving you with a large bill each quarter). The shower might give you exactly three mins of hot water before conking out. Or it might be next to a hidden nightclub that you didn’t notice that Saturday afternoon you inspected, but now keeps you awake until 4am each night.

Paying cash & no lease to sign

Avoid moving into a property unless you’ve signed a lease and filled out a property damage check.

Leases protect both the landlord and the tenant and will help to settle any disputes that may arise. They’re essential if you’re choosing to rent a home from a landlord who’s not using a real estate agent.

If the landlord insists that you don’t need a lease, it’s a sign they may have something to hide. Paying in cash might be fine, but make sure the landlord provides you with a receipt on the spot, every time you pay rent.

Cash transactions are untraceable, so if your landlord did end up being less than scrupulous, you’ll have no records of what you’ve paid. Private rentals are fine, just make sure the landlord goes through the correct avenues with a proper lease, property check report and timely receipts for payment of your rent.

Disrepair or poor repairs

Properties need repairs and maintenance in their natural life, but those should be done in a safe, legal and responsible way. While it’s the landlords prerogative to choose the means and methods by which their property is up-kept, their tenants have the right to a safe property in liveable condition.

If you’re noticing repairs made with crude materials like duct tape, glues or string then you should really be questioning whether or not you want to move in. Bad repairs may be a warning sign that the landlord doesn’t value the safety of their tenants and is prepared to compromise on necessary repairs on the home to save costs.

This presents a problem not only for the existing repairs but for for repairs that may be necessary while you’re living there. If a kitchen cupboard door has been fixed with masking tape you can be pretty sure that when the next kitchen cupboard breaks it won’t get the attention it should.

Negative feedback from tenants or neighbours

It’s often difficult to get in contact with previous tenants of a house but if you happen to know them, ask them for feedback. It’s not about dishing the dirt, but due diligence. If they don’t have a nice word to say about the landlord, tread carefully.

If they’re ending their lease early, it’s in their best interest to get a tenant in the apartment as soon as possible. If they have any cautions under those circumstances, it’s worth paying attention.

Too many unwanted belongings

If you’re renting from a friend or an acquaintance and you feel comfortable making special arrangements in your rental agreement, that’s fine. If you’re renting from someone you’ve never met before and half their stuff is still on the property, they’re not re-directing their mail or they want to keep parking their car in the driveway then warning bells should be ringing for you.

It’s quite possible they want to utilise storage space on their property, and not unreasonable in and of itself. However, if you’re paying to rent a property you’re paying for the full use of that property unless prior arrangements have been made. It may also imply you’ll see them around scrounging in the garage more than you’re comfortable with.

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