Be the nosy tenant – before you sign the lease

Be the nosy tenant – before you sign the lease

Private Property South Africa

The new Property Practitioners Act (PPA) provides for rental agents to give prospective tenants a document disclosing everything they know about the condition of the property before they sign the lease, but there are several other things that tenants should check too.

According to Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, “While landlords have plenty of tales to tell about defaulting tenants or tenants who wrecked their rental properties, that coin does unfortunately have another side.

“Ask any tenant and they’ll tell you about at least one property they wish they’d never laid eyes on – let alone paid good money to live in. While the new PPA provisions will hopefully help most of them to avoid problems such as leaky roofs and dodgy electrical wiring, they don’t address things like noisy neighbours or landlords who refuse to respond to maintenance requests.”

However, he says, there is nothing to stop tenants doing some research of their own, bearing in mind that the rental agent is obliged in terms of the Code of Conduct to act in their interests as well as the interests of the landlord.

“It would not hurt, for example, to ask to view the property on different days of the week and at different times, so that you can gauge any changes in traffic and noise patterns and the character of the area over weekends, or in the evenings.

“If you are renting in a complex, the agent should of course also give you a copy of the conduct rules that cover issues like parking and pets, but you may also want to know, in broad terms, whether the residents are mostly older or if they are young parents with small children, as this could make it busier and noisier – and unsuitable if you mostly work from home.

“On the other hand, if you are a young person, you may not want to live where most other residents are liable to complain if you play music after 10pm or have friends over for a braai on weekends.”

Kotzé says other things for prospective tenants to enquire about include the safety of the area and the latest crime statistics, and what the security provisions are in the case of a sectional title complex or an estate. “These days, it’s also good to know if the property has any back-up systems in case of electricity or water supply interruptions.

“For most people, the easy availability of a high-speed internet connection is a big concern now, and with the cost of fuel continuing to rise rapidly, the availability of public transport or ride-share services is also becoming increasingly important.”

Obviously, he says, not many people would want to live in an area where there was any kind of serious environmental hazards, and prospective tenants are quite entitled to ask about this as well as the reasons for the property being available.

“In fact, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask anything you want about the property, or be satisfied with vague or non-committal answers. The important thing is for you to be able to make an informed decision. After all, it’s going to be your signature on that lease – and your money paying the rent.”

Writer : Meg Wilson

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