Reams has been written about the importance of finding the right home when you are in the market to buy. Likewise, the importance of finding the right tenant is discussed at every opportunity but strangely, very little is said on the importance of finding the right landlord.
Let's be frank, you get good landlords, you get bad landlords and you get atrocious landlords. A good landlord looks after a solid tenant. He makes sure the property is well-maintained, and understands the importance of looking after someone who pays their rent on time and who looks after the home as if it were his own. A bad landlord doesn't generally give a hoot about the tenant and although he is more than happy to take rental payments, doesn't feel that it's his job to keep the home in good condition. An atrocious landlord simply collects the rent. He has no interest in the property or the tenant, refuses to maintain the home to a liveable standard and more often than not will lump the tenant with a large rental increase at every opportunity. This type of landlord is also likely to attempt to withhold a deposit once the tenant has moved out.
It's not always easy to spot a bad landlord. People generally wear masks and can hide a multitude of sins behind a smile. But there are signs that all is not well and tenants are strongly advised to take a long hard look at a property before signing the lease.
• Look at the overall condition of the property. Has the home recently been painted and if so, what sort of paint has been used? Walls need to be washed on a fairly regular basis - the paint used should therefore be washable and not strip off the wall the first time it comes into contact with soapy water. Trying to keep a place in tip top condition, only to find that you are going to have to forfeit your deposit in order to pay for a new paint job is incredibly frustrating, particularly when a substandard product has been used.
• Ensure that all the fittings are in working order - test the lights, the stove, turn on the taps and check that the toilet flushes.
• Inspect the floor coverings - the odd broken tile may be acceptable, however, frayed stained carpets and a plethora of damaged tiles could indicate a general lack of interest on the part of the landlord.
• Check the perimeter fence or wall. Good landlords take care of both the inside and outside of a property.
Perhaps most importantly, try to find out what sort of reputation the landlord enjoys. Questions such as how many tenants have lived in the property in the past two years should be asked. Be wary of a home that has seen a significant number of tenants coming and going over a relatively short period of time.
Chat to the rental agent about the landlord’s deposit history. Does this individual always seem to have a problem refunding the deposit and if so, why?
Learn to trust your instincts and if something doesn't feel right, walk away. Rental properties may be in short supply, but it is preferable to find a home that is liveable rather than to enter into an agreement with someone who could, in the long run, end up costing you a fortune by forcing you to move and refusing to refund your deposit.