As with all new ventures in life there is a learning curve to being a new tenant.  The rental property market has it’s own set of rules and ideas.  As a new renter it will be best to ensure you get comfortable with the rental property market.

1. Research your new neighbourhood

Before looking at the new rental properties available you should spend a bit of time and research your new neighbourhood. Makes sure this is the neighbourhood that you want to move in to.  Many new renters think if I don’t like it I will move. This may be the case but you will only be able to move in a year, you will be living in a neighbourhood you hate and maybe even feel unsafe.

Take the time and research your new neighbourhood, take a walk and talk to those you come across.  You will get a good sense for a neighbourhood by interacting with the community.


  2. Be Prepared

Taking the time to view each and every rental property in your price range and neighbourhood selection can take it’s time, time most of us don’t have.  It is for this reason that you need to be prepared.  

Have your questions on a list whereby you can make notes on each rental property you view.

  • Size
  • Garden
  • Parking
  • Monthly Extra Cost (Utilities)
  • Rent
  • Landlord’s responsibility and yours
  • Condition of the rental property
  • Your feel on the rental property

Make sure you have all your documentation at hand

  • ID & Certified Copy
  • Proof of Employment and payslip
  • 3 Months Bank Statements (most recent)

This is important as the rental market keeps on getting more competitive as fewer home ownerships are bought.  If you are lucky enough to find the perfect place then and there, well thrust me you would want sign that contract asap.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting you take the first rental property  that’s good enough…  O no, please continue the search.  Signing is for when you know this can be your home for maybe even longer than a year….  Moving cost is far more than you thought it will be, the same for the effort.


3. Read the Lease Agreement carefully

Don’t ever feel pressured into signing the lease agreement if you need more time.  Making sure you understand your lease is fundamental.  It will be within this (very) legal document that the terms and conditions will be stipulated regarding your rental property.  From emergencies, what is considered emergencies and how they will be handled.  To general maintenance, the garden service, the pool service, the utilities bill, interior fixings to even who replaces the light bulbs.

Tenants too have the right to ask for amendments to the lease agreement.  If there is something you’re uncomfortable with you have the right to ask if it could be changed.  Your new landlord may say no, or that their willing to find a compromise.  

Be sure to read it from front to back, line for line.


4. Understand your rental deposits purpose

Rental deposits are often the cause of many landlord -tenant explosions, as new tenants always seems so surprised by how their rental deposit was returned to them. Be sure that you understand what your rental deposit will be held responsible for, what funds will be attached to what penalties.  

My rental deposit is responsible for:

  • Breakage of….  Windows, locks, which fittings -Make sure you know
  • Cleaning and how much
  • Garbage bin, what if it gets stolen?
  • Garden and pool maintenance… or not?
  • Paint jobs, how are they to be handled

This may seem so over the top, but needing your old deposit to pay for your new deposit will ensure that you want as much back as you can.  It is for this reason that you need to make sure you have all your rental ducks in a row.  It is key not to give a grumpy landlord any reason to start deducting from your rental deposit, many DIY landlords use it a s a last chance to make a quick buck out of the renter.


5. Get it in Writing

Oral discussions are hard to proof in court if it ever gets to it. Make sure you have everything in writing, even if its sms or whatsapp.  

Consider your landlord said yes you may have a pet, but later decides not to. Not having the new pet agreement in the lease will still leave you reliable for the rent while not being able to hold onto your pet.  The written word is sadly most of your protection.

6. Checklist everything with photos and video

It is important (especially for your rental deposit) that you document everything before moving in.  This will be your only recourse if some disagreement where to arise about the quality of the property.  Taking photos and videos (move in day) will also be a good place to start with the consideration of wear and tear.

Many landlords are suppose to have a checklist of their own and insist on it being filled out.  However this may come to be part of your responsibility, try our rental checklist


7. You still need your own insurance

Your landlord’s insurance will only cover the building not what’s inside it. Insuring your belongings is still your responsibility.


8.Keep talking to your landlord.

You will very fast get a feel for your new landlord, is this a chatty person or someone that wants to be left alone.  In any case this will only determine the way in which they choose to communicate.  Chatty landlords like to phone, the leave me alone kind likes messaging apps.  Either way fall in with your landlords’ way and keep the lines of communication open.  Never give your landlord the opportunity to point a finger to you, saying they didn’t know.  

By playing the good and honest tenant role, you are ensuring that your landlord discovers your value.  All landlords want tenants that takes good care of their rental property.  If you portray that you are such a tenant (and you should be) you will be in the good books when you need your landlord’s help.


9. Be respectful to your landlord’s rental property.

It is always a good thing to be aware that this isn’t entirely your property and that changing permanent fittings might go off badly.  It is for this reason important that you make minor changes that can easily be reverted as once where.

If you are going to paint, make sure your landlord is aware of it with the colour.  Make sure you get the ‘YES’ before continuing as this can be a touchy subject.  If you are going to change the light covers and fittings consider storing the old fittings.  This way your landlord can refund you for your designer style or request you take it with you and put back what was there.


10. Beware of rental scams

Rental scams are sadly a reality of our times, it is your job to make sure you don’t fall victim to this. Keep your guard up, ask all the questions you want and focus on the response you get.

Some common rental scam signs to beware of:

  • Not being able to view the rental property in person
  • Agents and landlords that keep avoiding meeting with you
  • An urgency to paying the deposit and rent without the proper paperwork and checkups.
  • Being selective of what they say and how they answer your questions

The rental property market gets easier to understand the more you move and encounter different landlords with their own perspective on the matter.  The important thing to remember as a new tenants is to try and stay on your landlords good side.  Be respectful to their rental properties and always keep the lines of communication open.

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Written by Lizl Brink, Lizl is copywriter and designer based in Johannesburg, she is also a frequent contributor to the Mafadi blog, and as an Urban investor and rejuvenation shares a passion for urban regeneration, go check out her personal portfolio here
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