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Questions to ask landlord before renting

22 December 2020

10 min read

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Договор аренды

The house in which we live in is not just four walls and a roof. Our house is the place where we meet with friends and a family, recharge our batteries, and create. Our mood and well-being to the large extent depends on how comfortable our stay in the house will be.

When we are looking for a place to leave, we, first of all, pay attention to the following points: Where are the premises located? How far is it from the subway and the nearest store? How many rooms? Which floor? What does an entrance and a hallway look like? Is there any parking available? What repairs have been done in the apartment or a house? What furniture and appliances is it equipped with? What is the monthly rental cost? But, in addition to this, there is a large number of equally important issues that can affect a comfortable living of a tenant in the future. Here are the main ones that we recommend to agree on with the landlord before signing the lease, to avoid ending up in an inferior position.

1. Is there a title deed?

Why is it important? In the case of long-term rental of six months or a year, the tenant pays deposit and the first month’s rent in advance. If the property has several owners, then it is possible that, as a result of litigation with the landlord, there might be co-owners who would want to live in the property or even sell it. It means that you will have to urgently look for new housing. To prevent this from happening, ask for title deeds for the property. An example of such documents would be the Certificate of Ownership if it was privatized (common in Commonwealth of Independent States), of deed of sale or a gift. Should you find out that the apartment or house has more than one owner, the contract must be signed between all parties. Otherwise, the second owner may try to evict you due to the lack of his consent to the rental agreement.

2. What are the basic rental terms and conditions?

The contract should stipulate the main provisions of the relationship between the parties. For example:

  •     The mode of payment for the property,
  •     earliest move in date,
  •     the minimal term of the lease agreement, and the termination clause,
  •     upon lease termination, what should the parties compensate each other for?
  •     is renter insurance required?

In some countries, a fairly large lease deposit is made, which is returned only after the lease ends.

3. What household appliances and furniture are provided?

As a rule, before settling on the property of choice, the tenant views several properties. Sometimes viewings can take over a month. By the time the contract is signed, it is difficult for the tenant to remember what household appliances and furniture were in the property when viewing the apartment. It is advisable to check,

the operability of all systems and the condition of the items in the property: turn on the taps, turn on the lights, check the sockets and household appliances before accepting the property. Usually, the landlord will provide you with the property inventory checklist, however, if not, it is worth compiling a separate one, which can be added as an annex to the contract. Record all shortcomings and damages in the contract, so that when it’s time to move out you won’t face unfair charges. It is sensible to discuss whether a landlord can take out his old furniture if you are planning to bring your own.

4. Rent payment terms

The tenant must somehow transfer the money to the landlord, hence, it is best to stipulate it in writing: on the 1st day, before the end of the month, mode of payment, etc. Should you opt to pay in cash, you should ask the landlord for a payment receipt. Otherwise, it might turn out that you did not pay for anything.

5. Who pays for utility bills and how?

This can vary from country by country, but in most cases, the tenant pays for electricity, water, gas, and council tax. It is worth checking whether you will be paying for actual consumption or whether it will be based on the predetermined rates. It is also worth agreeing with the landlord on how the meter readings will be recorded and transmitted.

Do you need a proof of payment? Sometimes the landlord tries to impose on the tenant maintenance costs, cleaning of the adjacent territory and to pay for concierge and security. It is always worth clarifying who will pay for those. It is also worth checking on broadband and phone services. Before signing up, request a confirmation from the landlord that previous year’s bills were paid up to your move-in date as otherwise one day your service might be terminated for a debt that does not belong to you. You don’t need a property with someone else’s debts, do you? Also, at inception of your lease term, it is worth recording the initial meter readings.

6. How will the repairs be carried out?

It is not uncommon for a tenant to have problems with household appliances during their stay (for example, a refrigerator, washing machine, or a TV set has broken down). Unforeseen emergencies are also possible, for example, a pipe or radiator leaks. You need to discuss the repair options with the Landlord when these failures aren’t your fault. Will, you still have to pay for it or will it be the landlord, and what are the guidelines?

7. Pet policy

Sometimes, when it comes to new apartments furnished to a high standard, landlords exclude the families with small children or house pets. You should agree in advance with the landlord whether it is permitted to share the property amongst several tenants, e.g. students, or a sublet, as well as the possibility of split payment.

8. Contacts of utilities and emergency services

You should get contacts for: plumbers, electricians, the management company, gas and electricity emergency services, anyone else you may need in an emergency. Be sure to write them down so that you can tackle the issues should they happen.

9. How safe is the property?

Another relevant question to raise: Who besides the landlord has access to the property? Is it possible to change the locks upon acceptance of the lease? This way you will feel a lot more at ease, knowing that only the landlord and you have access to your property. Is there security at the entrance, video surveillance in the common areas and hallways? Are there security systems installed for leakage control, fire safety, intrusion detectors? It is also worth discussing in advance as to how often and at what time the landlord plans to visit the tenant. How well in advance should the landlord warn you about his visit, and will the owner be visiting the property while you are out? After all, for the term of the lease, this is your personal space.

10. Is it possible to change the interior of the apartment?

You have signed a contract with the landlord for several years. Prolonged inhabitation implies some changes to the apartment. Ask your landlord whether it is possible to independently change the interior of the apartment, for example, changing the wallpaper or painting the walls. What about drilling holes in the walls?…

11. What to look for when renting a house?

We usually assume that there will be hot water, heating, a properly functioning sewage system, electricity and gas when it comes to viewing an apartment, since in the large apartment complexes these services are usually centralized, but it is even more important to inquire about those things when renting out a house! When choosing a house, it is worth asking the landlord questions related to cold and hot water supply. Is there a water well located directly on the site? When was the last time the communications were repaired and what was carried out? Is there a basement, how is it ventilated? Is there a stand-alone power generator in case of a power outage?

Since a house, usually, has an autonomous heating system, it is necessary to clarify with the landlord how exactly the house is heated: using a gas boiler or an electric one? Depending on the season and internal area of ​​the house, expenses can vary greatly; ask for examples of payments for the summer and winter months. Particular attention should be paid to the availability of reliable emergency service for all communications at home, preferably a single service department, a manager, etc., through which you will inevitably have to solve problems with water and electricity supply, sewage. These problems happen in a house much more often than in an apartment. If there is a swimming pool on-site, ask the landlord how the water is filtered and how often is it cleaned. The answer should be clear: for example, “on Tuesdays” or “bi-weekly” and not “on as-needed basis”. It is also worth asking a question about the garden, trees, and a lawn, e.g. how watering is done.  Just like with the pool, the plants need constant care. Usually, garden maintenance is included in the house rent payment, but it is always good to check.

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