5 common mistakes that renters should avoid

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

Long-time renters will know that a number of things could go wrong if you aren’t familiar with the process or aware of the possible mistakes one could make. We’ve identified five of the most common mistakes renters make to hopefully prevent anyone from having to learn the hard way!

1. Renting the property unseen
While this seems like an obvious mistake to avoid, some renters are tempted to go by what they see advertised without checking out the property in person first. This is extremely ill-advised and can lead to some unpleasant surprises at best, and at worst, the very real risk of falling prey to professional con artists and scammers. Always be sure to view a property before signing a lease to make sure you know firsthand what you’re getting yourself into.

2. Signing the lease without reading it (or not reading through it carefully)
Failing to read through the lease before signing it is probably the worst mistake renters can make. Just like with any legal document, it is worth scrutinising the fine print to make sure what was agreed upon is what you’re legally agreeing to. Be sure that the terms stipulated are correct, especially when it comes to details such as the moving in date, length of the lease, monthly rental amount and what that rental amount includes. If you do need to make any changes, make sure this is done before you sign on the dotted line.

3. Not documenting existing damage prior to moving in
Before moving in, it’s important to conduct a proper walkthrough and make a note of any pre-existing damage or potential issues in a snag list. Not only can any areas of concern be addressed and fixed before moving in, it prevents any existing damage being unfairly deducted from your security deposit when the time comes for you to move out. Be sure to take photos for documentation purposes and provide copies to your landlord so that they are made aware of all and any issues beforehand, and so that you have a record of what needs to be attended to before you move in.

4. Assuming the landlord will fix everything
Some renters make the mistake of assuming that the landlord is entirely responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property, with little or no effort on their part. This unfortunately is not entirely the case, so it’s therefore important to check your lease agreement for clarity as to what the landlord is and isn’t responsible for.

Read more: Tenant vs landlord – who fixes what?

5. Not familiarising yourself with the rules
Over and above the stipulations set out in the lease, most properties on estates, in complexes or apartment blocks come with a set of body corporate or homeowner rules that renters need to comply with once they are living on the property. A common mistake renters make in this regard is trying to sneak in a pet without getting the ok from the landlord and/or governing body. Some renters even go as far as sneaking in a pet when the rules clearly state that they are prohibited! Doing this, however, is very risky as you not only run the risk of get caught and fined, but such a violation could be grounds for eviction. Similarly, subletting the property without consent can be a serious violation of the rules, so be sure to request a copy from your landlord once you’ve settled in.

Whether you’re looking to move in long term or are just looking for somewhere to call home for the next few months, it’s important to ensure that your renting experience is a pleasant one for both you and your landlord. By avoiding these mistakes and respecting the rental process, you are largely guaranteed a healthy rental relationship with your landlord and a pleasant living experience for however long you call your rental home.

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