When it comes to renting a home, everyone will say that “location, location, location” is the most important factor. And that’s absolutely true. That’s why property listings always mention whether the home is near to MRT stations, schools, highways, food courts, malls and so on.
But apart from location, what are the other things you should look out for when renting a place? You know, the not-so-obvious things?
Below are 7 common mistakes that tenants typically make when renting a home for the first time:
1. Not reading (and understanding) the terms in the tenancy agreement
The tenancy agreement (TA) is a document that covers the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant, as well as the terms and conditions for the duration of the tenancy.
Needless to say, drawing up a clearly-worded TA with proper clauses is important as it serves as a reference document should any disputes between the tenant and landlord arise. It also helps to protect the welfare of both parties.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but before signing the TA, it’s good to read the document and understand its clauses. For instance, the Minor Repair Clause states the maximum amount tenants have to pay per item for wear and tear items (leaky faucets, lightbulbs, aircon servicing, washing machine repairs, etc.). Usually, this amount is between $150 and $300, and the additional costs will be covered by your landlord.
So for example, if the cost of repairing a clogged toilet is $180, you’ll pay $150 while the landlord will pay for the remaining $30.
But here’s where it can get tricky: what if the cost of repairing the clogged toilet is $150 and the leaky pipe is $100?
“If the two issues are not connected, they would count as two separate repairs as they are different in nature. The tenant would need to bear $250 ($150 + $100)”, says Justin Kwek, Group District Director of Propnex Realty.
“However, if the clogged toilet is causing the pipe to leak, then it would be counted as one repair. The plumber will be the one deciding on the nature of the issue after he has done the inspection. If the issue is related, then the total cost of $250 will be divided between the tenant and landlord as per the terms in the TA.”
That said, you should also report any defects to the agent or landlord during the grace period, which is usually the first 30 days of the lease. These defects may include faulty plumbing or electrical wiring, malfunctioning air-conditioning, or broken sockets.
During the grace period, the landlord will be responsible for repairing any defects, which could be caused by the previous tenants. Be sure to take photos of these damages and send it to your landlord or to the agent.
2. Not taking (proper) photos of the unit
Speaking of photos, another common mistake a tenant can make is not taking photos of the unit before moving in. Photos and videos serve as proper evidence and documentation to help resolve any disputes over who is at fault for damages such as tile cracks, especially at the end of the lease. This way, you won’t get charged for issues that were not caused by you.
Make sure you take the photos in detail and always review your photos so that you at least know that you’ve covered what you need to take.
3. Not hiring (or communicating with) an agent
An agent not only serves at the middle person during the lease, but he/she can also help to diffuse any disputes or future mishaps, Justin says.
“Some tenants and landlords like to establish direct communication instead of communicating via the agent.
“The problem with this is no matter how nice both sides can be, when things break down or need to be replaced, this is where the conflict of interest and things can turn ugly real fast. The landlord would refuse to pay while the tenant will simply deduct the cost from the rental. The relationship would end badly with a direct line of communication.
“An agent serves as a medium for problem-solving and can refer to each problem to the correct clauses in the TA signed for quick and efficient resolution.”
4. Not getting renter’s insurance
While the landlord’s home insurance covers structural damages, disasters and potential accidents, the protection doesn’t extend to tenants’ personal property and liabilities against any loss or damages to the landlord’s property.
This means that your landlord will not be responsible for any losses to your personal belongings such as laptop, furniture, electronics and clothing in case of a burglary, fire, theft or accidental damages. Without renter’s insurance, you will also be liable for any accidental harm or damages caused to your landlord’s property.
“Accidents can happen anytime. The landlord’s home insurance only protects the landlord’s interest, but it doesn’t compensate for the tenant’s personal belongings. I would advise tenants to take up a renter’s insurance for the ultimate peace of mind. Furthermore, it’s not expensive; you can get one as low as $75 per annum,” says Justin.
5. Not spending enough time in the neighbourhood first
Before renting a home, it’s a good idea to spend time exploring the neighbourhood to get a good sense of what the neighbourhood is like, including the demographics of the area.
Visit the neighbourhood during different parts of the day to get an idea of what it’s like at night, during peak hours, on the weekends, etc. Pay attention to your surroundings as it tells you how well-run the building management/community management is. For example, a badly-maintained playground or dirty pool are potential warning signs of a poorly-run or under-funded management.
Justin encourages potential renters to walk to the MRT station or surrounding amenities by foot before committing whenever possible, and not to rely too much on what’s written on property ads or on Google Maps.
“While a property ad might say that the MRT station or a nearby grocery store is five minutes by foot, remember this is just an estimation. The actual time might take longer depending on your physical condition and how fast you can walk,” he explains.
6. Forgetting to check the area for noise
While there’s no denying the convenience of living close to amenities like an MRT station, shopping mall or highway, your home may experience a lot of noise and activity. Depending on your personal preference, this might be extremely burdensome in the long run, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
“A tenant should do their due diligence in finding out if there’s an upcoming construction nearby. I once had a couple who rented a unit for cheap, but underestimated the noise from the nearby construction site. They eventually packed their bags and left within a month because of the noise. Luckily, I managed to find a replacement tenant for them and they could transit out of the tenancy smoothly. Never underestimate the noise levels of a construction site,” shares Justin.
7. Repairing something without first informing the landlord
When something breaks down, it’s always important to get approval from the landlord before you decide to repair or replace it. While your landlord might not be too bothered if you replace minor things like light bulbs or plug heads, repairing/replacing existing fittings such as cabinets, air-conditioning units or washing machines requires approval from the landlord beforehand.
Just take for example this story from Justin: “I once had a case where the tenants replaced a faulty washing machine which was quite branded. Trouble was, the tenants replaced the washing machine with a cheaper one and without informing me or the landlord. When the lease was up, the landlord was furious with the replacement. Though the tenants honestly thought they had helped the landlord to avoid a hefty repair cost, the landlord had no choice but to deduct about $4000 from their deposit for buying a new washing machine.”
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