So you’ve found an apartment and scheduled a viewing with an estate agent. Great, but you need to know what to look out for when you take the tour. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
We’re assuming you’re renting your first apartment but even if you’re not, these pointers are useful for anyone who wants to make a great choice before making that non-refundable payment. Warning, there are more than twenty questions here. All are important, bear with us.
1. What’s the area like? How safe is it? Are the roads tarred? Will you be able to move around easily from there? Is there space for safe parking (for you or your guests)?
2. Are there things that could stress you later? For example, the surroundings could be prone to flooding or the house could be close to sources of noise.
3. Does the house need renovation or repairs? If it does, are you expected to pay or will the landlord cover the costs? Ask the landlord and get a formal (signed) agreement that includes when the renovation or repairs will be done. Hot tip: There’s nothing quite like renting a new house. That goes without saying.
4. Check the drainage around the house. Are there proper gutters? Is there a channel for rainwater to flow away easily? You’re renting a house, not a swimming pool.
5. Check the window nets. Check again, malaria is not a joke.
6. How is refuse disposed? Look out for overflowing dustbins and dumps. Rats and cockroaches won’t be far behind.
7. Check the walls and ceiling. Is the paint peeling? Are there signs of moisture or mould patches?
Hot tip: Mould ruins leather and clothes and it can make you very sick.
8. Do you have adequate storage space like cupboards and a closet? Storing things under your bed should be a last resort.
9. Is there a clear exit in case there’s a fire in the building? Look out for fire extinguishers outside. These things matter.
10. Does the plumbing work? Open all taps, check the shower and flush the toilets to see what’s up. Check the space under the kitchen sink. Look out for leaks.
11. What’s the source and quality of the water supply? Buying water in kegs or paying for a tanker supply is exhausting. Check the colour of the water and smell it.
12. Check for a water purification system outside the building. If there’s none, who will pay for it? Ask the landlord.
Hot tip: A borehole is your best bet for good and consistent water supply. It should be non-negotiable.
13. Is an electrical meter installed? If not, who will pay for it?
14. Get an electrician to check for faulty or potentially dangerous wiring. Do the electrical outlets and light switches work? Is a water heater installed?
15. How much is the rent and what does it cover?
Hot tip: Look sharp, agency and legal fees must never exceed 10% of the rent each.
16. What extra fees will you have to pay? For example, you may be expected to pay a service charge, diesel fees, a caution fee, estate dues or security fees. Find out.
17. If there are other tenants, will you have to do anything with them? For example, you may have to raise money for diesel or soakaway evacuation together. This can be inconvenient.
18. Check your phone and modem when you’re inside the house. Do you have good reception? 3G or 4G? You don’t want to have to stand still on a spot to make a clear phone call or go online.
19. Does the house have a security guard? Is there a curfew? It may seem ridiculous, but some landlords have rules about how late the gate can be opened.
20. If you can, ask the current tenants about their experiences the landlord and the building.
Remember, don’t pay if you’re not sure. You don’t want to live a whole year in a place you’re not happy with. All the best with your house hunt!