PROPERTY NEWS - Before purchasing their own home, most people go through a spell of living in rented accommodation, and while tales abound of disastrous and disheartening rental experiences for both tenants and landlords, a few ground rules can go a long way to ensuring a happy stay.
• For new tenants, says Tobie Fourie, national rentals manager for the Chas Everitt International property group, the most important of these is to ensure that everything is put in writing, starting with a proper lease stating the address and description of the property being rented, the names of both landlord and tenant, the rental period, the amount of rent to be paid, the deposit required and under what conditions it will be returned, the responsibilities of both parties with regard to maintenance, and the potential consequences if the tenant fails to pay rent on time or breaches the agreement in any other way.
"Then if there is any private arrangement that is not specifically covered in the lease - like the tenant agreeing to look after the landlord's dog - it should be written into a separate document that is also signed by both the tenant and the landlord or his agent," he says. "One reason for this is that without documentation neither party has proof of their case in any dispute - but a better one is that having everything in black and white helps to prevent disputes in the first place."
• Secondly, he says, all documents should be read carefully, and all queries satisfactorily addressed, before they are signed. "Leases can be confusing, but it is more foolish to sign without understanding every clause than to ask for doubtful issues to be explained. "A lease is a legally binding contract and once the tenant has signed he must abide by every clause. If the lease is broken without the landlord's approval, the tenant risks losing his deposit and even his credit rating."
• And finally, says Fourie, tenants should never be afraid to communicate with their landlords or letting agents if they are having trouble sticking to the provisions of their lease. "Explain your problem as soon as possible, and what you propose as a solution. If you have been a responsible and reliable tenant up until that point, most landlords will agree to reasonable changes to the lease or give you some leeway to solve a financial problem.
However, they are not under any obligation to make any special arrangements - and are much less likely to do so for tenants that fail to communicate until the rent is three months overdue, for example, or until the letting agent discovers that they have sub-let the property without permission."
Article: Chas Everitt International
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