See first; then sign

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

While it makes perfect sense for a buyer to scrutinise a property he intends to buy, it’s also a good idea for tenants to thoroughly inspect the property that they’re thinking of renting.

Crime is a fact of life in South Africa, but this doesn't mean that some areas aren't safer than others. With this in mind, prospective tenants should take the time to drive around the neighbourhood and talk to residents about the level of crime in the area. Take the time to inspect the security features on offer and ensure that the alarm, electric fences and gates are in working order. Open all of the windows and take a close look at the burglar proofing for signs of rust or other wear or tear. Ask the landlord if the home has been broken into before and what precautions have been taken to stop this from happening again.

Is it quiet?

Those looking for a bit of peace and quiet should also check to see what businesses are in the immediate vicinity and move on to another property if the unit is close to nightclubs and restaurants. With this in mind, it may be an idea to scout an area at different times before you start looking for a rental property. Generally a quick drive around on a Friday or Saturday night will indicate the types of people who frequent the area and the level of noise you can expect should you live there.

While wear and tear can be expected, tenants should check to see if the property has generally been well maintained. Peeling paint, broken tiles and old carpets may not appear to be the end of the world, but questions should be asked as to why the landlord is unwilling to take care of very basic maintenance issues.

It is also recommended that tenants check to see that all the light fittings and other electrical appliances such as stoves, ovens, air conditioners and extractor fans are in good working order while inspecting the property. Likewise, check to see that all the taps work and that the pool pump is operational.

General maintenance

Those moving into a high rise flat should ask about the lifts in the building. Do they often breakdown or does the body corporate ensure that the lifts remain in working order? Are the passages leading to the flats clean and tidy and is the recreational area well maintained? If the tenant has young children and the complex has a swimming pool they should check out the area to ensure that it is well secured with a sturdy fence and that the gate latches close properly.

Snag lists

Remember that the inspection must be repeated once the lease has been signed and the tenant has moved in. At that stage a thorough snag list must be prepared that lists all of the faults. While a snag list does not guarantee that a landlord will repair all of the problem areas, he will not be able to hold the tenant liable for the fault once the tenant moves out.

As the demand for rental property increases you may well find that it becomes more difficult to secure the right property at the right time. It could be an idea to start scouring rental sites in order to see if there are landlords out there who are looking to rent out their properties a month or two down the line. Signing a new lease a month or so before you vacate your old home removes a great deal of stress and will help you plan everything better.

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