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Living at home is cheap and your mom’s cooking is cool, but every eagle needs to leave the nest. Obviously you’ll be parting with a significant chunk of your salary and should draw up a budget first – just to get a ballpark figure of how big a chunk you can spare. And then…
• How many rooms do you need?
• How far away do I want to be from work, shops and the gym?
• Where is the closest public transport point?
• Would you consider getting a roommate?
The Internet is your friend. Gumtree has 20 000 listed places to rent at any given time. Renting directly with the owner eliminates estate agent fees. Gumtree advises that you always view the property in person and meet the owner. The last thing you want to do is pay a deposit into the account of someone you have never met, for a place you have only seen on the Web.
With an accredited estate agent, you have a better chance that the lease document that you sign complies with the law. Your money will also be safer; as Berry Everitt, MD of Chas Everitt explains: “working through an agent means that any deposit you pay will be safely held in a trust account and that you will have the protection of the Estate Agency Affairs Board.”
Check it out
You want to use all your K53-like observation skills when you’re at a viewing. “If possible, return to the property and neighbourhood at different times of the day and week to check for noise and security,” says Everitt. Don’t be pressured into signing a lease by owners or agents telling you about all the other people interested in the place – they’re just being sales people. Give yourself enough time to think things through and check out other options.
Move it, move it
Once you decide to take the place, the law says you must conduct an ingoing inspection with the landlord or agent present. Document the existing conditions with pictures and video, and attach these to the written report and add it to the lease says Everitt – and keep a copy. If your lease starts in summer you don’t want to get blamed later for pre-existing damage that you didn’t cause, like a leaky roof.
Finally, make sure that if the owner needs to make repairs to the place before you can move in, that he agrees to do so in writing before you sign the lease.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
The property waters are filled with sharks who will strip you to the bone if you’re not careful. Knowledge is the only power you have.
Get that contract
“A rental contract doesn’t have to be in writing to be valid, but it’s a smart idea to put it in black and white to avoid any misunderstandings,” says Marlon Shevelew, legal expert and lecturer with the Institute of Estate Agents. “Proving your side could be difficult if you don’t have a written contract. Legally your landlord must comply if you ask for a copy of the contract.”
If you can’t pay, fess up
“If you don’t have the money to pay rent, it’s best to talk truthfully to your landlord and try to come to an agreement,” advises Shlevelew. “Not paying rent allows the owner to send you a letter of demand and then start the process of kicking you out.”
What you do if the
owners are not looking after the place
“If your landlord isn’t maintaining the place, it’s best to gradually escalate the situation,” explains Shevelew. “Send a letter saying that you refuse to accept the current state of the place – detailing everything you feel he needs to fix. If nothing happens, follow it up with another letter demanding that they fix the place or else you will cancel the contract and seek damages. If all else fails take them to court.” You can further bolster your case by getting quotes for the repair work and attaching this to your complaint.