Things you must know before renting an apartment

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Human being is a nomad at heart. We travel for many reasons – to fulfil our professional responsibilities, take care of our businesses, make new friends or get more acquainted with our home which we share with more than seven billion of our fellow friends. Sometimes, we also travel for the sake of travelling, “not to go anywhere, but to go… the great affair is to move,” as Robert Louis Stevenson would have loved to describe. During our brief stays in distant landscapes we can temporarily convert hotel suites, holiday rentals or even makeshift tents as our home. But what if the relocation is destined to last several months if not for years?

In such cases, we must look for a more permanent mode of accommodation. Modern nomads have already developed a knack of renting and then transforming many a city apartment to their semi-permanent homes. But getting a comfortable apartment within one’s budget and then renting it proves to be a taxing experience for many. Several things need to be kept in mind. 

A thorough understanding of the local laws proves to be helpful. Do not expect the property agents to perform all the investigations for you. Do your own homework if you want to avoid any kind of legal hassles soon after relocating to a new place. Keep in mind the crucial points mentioned below to enjoy a comfortable living in a rented apartment of your choice.

Evaluate the property

Check every part of the apartment you are about to rent. Look for signs of structural weaknesses such as cracks in the wall, a mold or mildew infested bathroom or kitchen, unsightly plasterwork and so on. Take into account the quality of the locality. Any potential nuisance within the neighbourhood must be thoroughly researched and, if possible, warded off before moving in. Though this may sound off putting, but doing so can ensure the elimination of any future concerns for you and your family. Perform a thorough research on the local property market to understand if you are getting your price’s worth. Ideally, this should be done right at the beginning when you are considering a relocation.

Consider locational advantages

Assess your requirements. Proximity to public transport system, local markets and hospitals are always considered advantageous. If you need to fulfil professional or business obligations in another part of the city, consider how much time would it take for you to reach there everyday. The same applies for other members of your family. You need to be reasonably close to the local or international schools if you have children at a school going age. This London apartment, designed by The Manser Practice Architects + Designers, is located in a prominent position of the city and is very close to the business district.

Perform a safety check

Check if the building is located within a gated and secured site. A provision for 24-hr manual surveillance is preferable. Facilities like burglar alarm, entry phone etc nowadays considered a prerequisite. Check for the presence of emergency escapes. Landlord’s gas safety record must be available for scrutiny. See if the building conforms to the prevailing fire safety standards and whether your apartment is supplied with fire extinguishers, especially in the kitchen. The latter is a legal requirement in many parts of the world. 

Review the appliance and furnishing safety records if available. Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors etc would also contribute in the making of more secured premises for living. Get yourself covered by tenant’s insurance offset any accidental damages to your possessions from theft, burglary, fire etc.

Seek a certification of occupancy

Tenancy laws differ considerably from place to place. See if the city you are about to move in has provisions for issuing a certification of occupancy from the local authorities. This acts as an assurance about the quality of the structure and the community itself, if the apartment is placed in a cluster of gated condominiums. This certification can also furnish you with a general overview of the building such as a former factory converted for residential purposes etc.

Energy performance assessment

Most countries follow a standardised energy performance rating. Ask for the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to understand how energy efficient the building is. Singapore follows a Green Mark points system to assess the environment friendliness and energy efficiency of a residential building. In places where this is still not a legal requirement, you will have to do a manual check with some amount of expert assistance. 

Many heritage buildings do not require to comply with the existing energy performance guidelines. They may also have a separate set of rules specific for them. Never agree for a shared electricity meter with your landlord or another tenant. Make a list of the added utility costs you need to shoulder such as for lighting the corridors, operation of common electrical fixtures, alarm system, elevator etc.

Permission for renovation

You must clarify about the amount of renovation you may perform within the four walls of your apartment. Agreeing to a complete overhaul may not be possible or feasible for any landlord, but you may like to perform small alterations to make it suitable according to your tastes. Most landlords will not agree to the requests of demolishing internal walls, opening up the windows, changing the flooring and so on unless you agree to rent the place for a substantially long period of time. 

However, small repairing work that can arise from time to time, fixing of internal plumbing, lighting fixtures, internal paintwork etc can be pre-approved. Building laws may require you to comply with specific timing for performing any such work so that the rest of the occupants of a house do not feel disturbed. Failing to comply with these rules may result in evictions so be careful.

Monthly extraordinary expenses

You are expected to pay monthly extraordinary expenses on top of bare rents. Depending upon the location this is termed as maintenance cost or utility cost (not to be confused with the costs for electricity). This covers the maintenance cost of the building, needs for renovation, repairing, maintenance of the garden, footing the bills for private security personnel and so on. Periodically, there could be an increment in these as well. Instead of a verbal agreement, you should have this mentioned in the rent or lease agreements.

Pet friendliness

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Pet lovers beware. Your furry friends may not be welcome in your new apartment even if you are. Sometimes objections are raised by the rest of the occupants of a building. You must discuss this beforehand with your landlord. Generally, people do not disagree to let in cats or small dogs. In either case you may require to rent a pet friendly apartment. Moreover, you may need to limit the number of pets to one or two only.

No detail is small enough

Do not ignore the small prints. It is also better to include all the preferences – your landlord’s, yours and the housing authorities’ if any – in the lease agreement and have them signed by each party. Decide on the security deposit, agent commission and periodic increment in various charges. You may need to pay extra for the use of front or backyard, terrace, swimming pool, gaming facilities and community hall. Clarify whether in case of early termination of the agreement you need to pay any kind of penalty. Find out if subletting is allowed in case if you have any such intentions. Ask pertinent questions and clarify all your doubts to prevent any future complications.

Consider this your checklist for renting an apartment. Which pointer do you think to be most important? Share with us in the comments section below.
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