8 things to check before renting an apartment

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

Finding a new apartment to rent can be an exciting and promising time for any tenant, whether you’re new to the rental game or an experienced player. But jumping head first into a new lease without first carrying out an in-depth walkthrough could leave you with a fair amount of unnecessary woe to deal with.

Tenants should always insist on viewing a property before signing on the dotted line. Besides being able to spot potential issues, you will avoid the risk of falling for rental scams. Not only is signing a lease without viewing the apartment ill-advised, tenants often run the risk of falling for rental scams when doing so.

Below is a list of things to pay close attention to while viewing a potential apartment:

1. Doors and windows

Be sure to check that all the doors and windows open and close easily, especially sliding doors! Also make sure that the doorknobs aren’t wobbly and that the locks work. If any locks are broken or missing, be sure to bring this to the landlord’s attention so that you feel safe should you choose to move in. It’s also worth taking note of any draughts or sealing issues as this could make a difference to your electricity bill when it comes to heating or cooling the apartment.

2. Walls and floors

While a small crack in the wall isn’t anything to be too concerned about, any crack that you can slide a 50c coin into could be a sign of bad structural integrity. In fact, spotting any structural flaws should serve as a warning to rather set your sights elsewhere.

Also, be on the lookout for any water damage or watermarks near the floorboards, on ceilings, and on the walls. Water damage indicates that something is leaking somewhere, which means that mould, mildew, or rot could set in if it hasn’t already. This could pose a serious health risk especially for those prone to allergies or respiratory infections.

3. Appliances

Although most apartments in South Africa come unfurnished, it is worthwhile checking that all supplied appliances are in good working order.

Check that the stove plates and/or gas hobs work and that the oven heats up and is free of grease or cooking build-up. Also, be sure to check that the fridge is cold, if one is provided, and if there’s a washing machine and tumble dryer, look inside to make sure that these too have been well maintained.

4. Consider your furniture

A common mistake tenants make is signing the lease on an apartment before checking if their furniture will fit in come moving day. One sure way to avoid this is to measure all big-ticket items like beds and couches before viewing the apartment so that you have an idea of whether it can fit as well as how things can potentially be configured should you choose to move in. It may even be worthwhile taking along a tape measure to measure the floor space for even greater accuracy.

5. Cellphone signal

It might sound unlikely in this day and age, but some areas still don’t have the best cellphone reception. With this in mind, take a moment to check your phone’s signal and connectivity during your walkthrough. If the lease includes WiFi, ask the landlord to demonstrate that it works and that it is currently connected with a strong signal.

6. Crime

Living in a country where crime is an everyday concern means that it’s important to get to know the area you could end up living in. Check the security features of the apartment i.e. is the property access controlled by a guard or does it have an alarm system. It’s also worthwhile finding out where the local police station is and asking them, or even existing tenants, what crime is like in the area. If they are unable to assist, a simple Google search might help give you a good idea of any crime statistics and reports.

7. Parking

If you own a car, parking arrangements should definitely be on your list of things to check out. In many neighbourhoods – especially in the city – street parking can be hard to find or unsafe for both you and your vehicle. Finding an apartment with a garage and/or an inside parking bay is therefore a necessity. Remember to ask whether the apartment comes with allocated parking and whether there is an additional cost for this.

8. Noise levels

Before leaving, take a moment to listen to the neighbourhood and surrounding noise levels. Note how loud the traffic is, whether there are barking dogs or how easy it is to hear your neighbours. If you really like the apartment, try visit more than once and spend some time in the surrounding neighbourhood during the day and night. You may find that it’s much noisier at night, for example, so this will give you a better idea of what you’re in for.

While these are just some factors to be aware of when flat-hunting, there are many others – like checking for signs of pests, making a note of how easy the apartment was to find, looking at the upkeep of communal areas etc. Considering these factors when viewing potential apartments can help you find the right apartment and ensure that you aren’t caught off-guard later.

Once the lease is signed, you’re in it for the long haul so make sure that the apartment you choose doesn’t have any major issues that will make lead to renter’s regret.

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