Finding a new rental property

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

If you are looking for a home to rent you need to prepare just as well as if you are buying a property, and many of the items on both checklists are the same.

South Africa’s residential market remains strong, as the number of new households continues to rise and fewer people can afford to buy their own homes.

Ideally, you need plenty of time to look at several flats, townhouses or freestanding houses you might like to rent. This will enable you to make comparisons, find out about the different neighbourhoods and visit the most promising ones at different times of day or over a weekend to check on traffic, security and noise levels.

Before starting your search for a new rental property you should draw up a list of features you are looking for in a home and use it to help you decide which properties to view.

Essentials might include:

  • a particular location
  • sufficient space for your needs
  • good security
  • safe parking
  • nearby public transport
  • pre-paid electricity and water metering

Renting in a complex

Lifts, storage rooms, laundry facilities, a pool, a gym and braai areas might also be on your list if you are looking at flats or townhouses. In sectional title complexes it is also important to check the rules and make sure they don’t conflict with your lifestyle. For example, if you are a dog owner and the rules of conduct don’t allow pets you can cross that particular property off your list.

In addition to the state of the rental unit, you need to check the overall condition of the complex. You should check the general appearance of the buildings, lobbies, hallways and gardens and the functioning of the lift, if there is one. A flat with a view may soon seem like a bad choice if you frequently have to carry groceries up several flights of stairs.

Top priorities

  • As with buying a property, location is usually the most important feature in choosing a rental home. A well-kept house with all the space you need may seem like a good choice but if it’s in a rundown area, you probably wouldn’t want to live there.
  • Heavy traffic volumes or noise levels might also be a consideration, especially if you are a student looking for a flat close to university. Overlooking a busy road may not be too much of an issue, but apartments close to nightclubs, freeways and public transport hubs should be avoided unless you are a night owl.
  • You should look for homes that are spotlessly clean and neat even if they don’t have brand new flooring, fittings or kitchen and bedrooms cupboards. Well-kept properties show that the landlord cares about upkeep and is likely to attend to any maintenance or repair issues without delay.
  • For most tenants security is a top priority. In freestanding houses you need to check whether there are burglar bars on windows, security gates on doors and working alarm systems. In a complex you need to check for electronic gates and garage doors, safe parking, good lighting and perimeter security measures such as electric fencing and access control. Also take note whether or not the existing residents are careful about maintaining security. All the latest security equipment is of no use if residents are lax about who they allow into the complex or leave sliding gates to close without checking who may be slipping in behind them.
  • For many tenants optic fibre connectivity is important, especially if you work from home. They offer significant benefits in network speeds and communication and entertainment options.

Lease agreements

Once you have found the right property you must ensure that you sign a lease agreement that clearly spells out all the obligations of landlord and tenants. The lease should include details of the rental amount and when it is due, the duration of the contract, penalties for early cancellation and who is responsible for property maintenance.

You will almost certainly be required to pay the first month’s rental when you sign the lease, as well as a deposit – usually equivalent to one or two month’s rental - and lease administration fees. Be sure to have these funds available before you sign the agreement.

Compromise

Always bear in mind that there are very few perfect rental homes, so you should be willing to compromise quickly on non-essentials if you find a flat or a house that fits into your budget and also meets most of your requirements.

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