So you are done with school and now you need to think of your future, specifically where you will stay.  This short article will give you as a future first year student a good idea of what to look out for in any form of student accommodation.

1. Finding your accommodation:

There are several options available for student accommodation, the most common is to go for the hostiles at the university or technikon itself.  However these are often difficult to get into and (depending on your school) can be more expensive.  There are other options also available, such as communes and individual apartments.

To decide what you want you will have to consider the lifestyle you as a student will have.  Will your course allow you lots of free time for parties or will you need absolute silence to study.  These are the questions you will have to ask yourself honestly.  You may think you will have lots of time, but if you study anything in the BSC and most BComs, you will need silence.  Your course demands lots of time, if you are studying something in the BA lines you will of course have to work hard, but you will still be able to paint even with a nosy roommate.

You should also consider if you are renting directly from the landlord or through an agency.  Agencies tend to ask administration fees and sometimes even other weird fees.  You should look out for these and also if you are going through an agency ask for all the fees upfront.  These fees will have to be paid by you with the deposit, with your first month’s rent.  The first months total can be quite a bit.

2. Dealing with the landlord

If you are dealing with the landlord make sure you have his private cell or home number.  This is important for when that geyser goes, or the toilet wouldn’t flush.  These things tend to happen on a Friday afternoon, make sure you can cope for the weekend by having those numbers.

If you are however working through an agency, make sure you understand what will happen if things like this happens, what will be done and when will it be done.

It is always a good idea to talk to the existing tenants of the place you want to rent.  Ask them about the landlord, about the space and also if the landlord actually stick to his end of the bargain.  Does he fix things himself and how fast does these thing happen, or does he actually get someone to fix them in a timely fashion.  You may think these are small things now, but not having hot water for three weeks because your landlord wants to fix it himself is not cool, this have happened to me.

3. Inspect the space

This is not to be a pain, but you need to know what you are getting yourself into.  If the space looks unloved, then you will also be unloved.

You need to look at everything, in every corner and every edge.  You need to look in the cupboards, the ceiling, the carpets, the tiles, the windows, the doors, the showers, the baths the tabs, the oven, I mean EVERYTHING.  While looking you should take photos, make notes, ask questions.  These are the things that most bad landlords would want to nail you for causing damage to anything and everything when in actual fact it was like that even before you moved in.

You should also consider how clean the place is, did the landlord actually get a cleaning lady in before switching tenants, did he wash the carpets and repainted the place.  If not, then these are things you get to  bargain him down on you first months rent.  Why, because you will be doing it.  You don’t want to live in another random persons mess, no one wants to.

4.  Take lots and lots of photos

Most landlords will try and find any reason not to give you your deposit back, its sad, but I have only had one landlord that was willing, the other I had to fight with.  This also include the landlords my brother had to deal with, he never got the one I got :/

This is where dealing with an agency can sometime be better, their honest about it, the deposit money doesn’t come back to them, so they have nothing to gain by scamming you out of your deposit money.

What should you be taking photos of, you ask…

The Kitchen

  • Cupboards
  • Oven
  • Stove
  • Tiles
  • Windows
  • Ceiling
  • Sink
  • Under the sink
  • Washing Machine

The Bathroom

  • Tiles
  • Windows
  • Ceiling
  • Curtain Railings
  • Sink
  • Sink Tap
  • Cupboards
  • Shower
  • Shower taps
  • Shower door
  • Bath tub
  • Bath taps

The Remaining Rooms

  • Tiles
  • Carpets
  • Windows
  • Ceiling
  • Walls
  • Scertings
  • Curtain Railings

You should also look for grim and molding throughout the entire place, dirt is a bad landlords’ favorite way to hold your deposit.  The worst is they don’t take R300 for cleaning, but the entire deposit amount.  Who knew a cleaning lady cost R3000, must be the most lucrative business in the world then 😉  Anyway, the photo taking of the dirt will be there to show that the place wasn’t clean when you moved in so why should it sparkle when you move out.

5.  The garden

Who is going to take care of the garden and when.  If the landlord say it’s your responsibility then he needs to at least supply the equipment.  You as a student don’t want to go buy a lawnmower, what are you going to do with it afterwards.

If the landlord has none of the equipment and you feel you want to take care of the garden then ask if you can’t go buy the equipment, but that the amount will be deducted from your rent that month.  You will of course then have to leave the equipment after you move out.  This goes the same for a hosepipe and other garden equipment.

6.  The bills

Living on your own will teach you to start taking care of your own bills, this should be the same when it comes to the utilities.  Lots of landlords include this in the rent, but often they calculate the amount in their favor, meaning that you may pay more than what you actually use.  By paying the utilities yourself, you ensure that you pay for what you use and also you start learning to be environmentally responsible, when electricity cost are starting to interfere with a beer after class you are going to start switching off those lights.

7. Inventories

While you are taking all those photos, you should be making notes as well.  Ask your landlord what is included and what is not include, add this to the inventory list.  If there are things to be fixed, make sure your landlord knows about it and also that he gives you an acceptable timeline in which it must be fixed.  Most of all, make sure you put all of this in writing, you and your landlord should sign and date it with an external witness, 2 if you can.  This will ensure that if there are any disputes the two of you can go back to that inventory and check what is what.

I can’t state how important this is, you may think in all the excitement that it’s unnecessary, but I promise you when you have a bad situation, the paper work is all that gets you out of it.  This basically goes for anything in life.

8. The Contract

You may want to have your parents by your side when it comes to this.  You should do all the talking but have mom or dad listen in and drop in when there are any uncertainties.  They have rented before and they know what to look out for.

This will also be a good time to negotiate the rent.  People negotiate the rent when they buy a place, why can’t we do the same when renting a place.  I realize this is unheard of in South Africa, but it is something you can try, maybe you get lucky.

You should also take a water and electricity reading the day you move in, add this to the bottom of the contract and have a witness with the landlord sign it.  It has happened that the previous tenant didn’t pay their utilities bill and that the landlord might want to dump this expense as yours onto you.

The length of your contract should also be considered.  The academic year is basically 9 months of the year, so what do you do with the remaining three months.  If you are going home you should try and get a contract that works well with you academic year.  This being said you should make sure that you don’t make  your lease too short with something like a week before you go home.  You don’t want to be packing instead of studying because you miss calculated your lease period, give yourself a week after exams to be able to pack.

9. Tenancy agreements

If you are going to share a space with a mate, make sure that you have each others contact details as well as their parents.  You and your mate might be the best of friends now, but in six months of dirty dishes and socks you might want to kill each other.

If one of you where to move out, the other one will still be liable for paying the full amount in rent.  Make sure that you can get their part in rent, you shouldn’t have to pay for it, for they agreed to share the cost with you together.

10. Exterior of your new home

This is something all renters often forget, you need to consider the surrounding around your new commune or flat.  Is the property close to any busy street, will you hear your neighbour if you are renting a flat (how thick are the walls).  Are there any nice cheap hangout place close to the space.  These are the things one should consider as well before signing that contract.

Basically, do you like your neighbours and neighbouring surroundings?  This will also affect how nice you might find a place.   Renting a place far away from your college might be cheaper, but you will have to travel far all the time to get to class and to meet up with friends.  These are also cost that should be considered when choosing one space above another.

Choosing a space to live, whether you’re a student or a working person is one of the most difficult things to do, I often found that everything looks ok and feels ok, until that very first night after you moved in.  I suggest that you walk into a place and immediately consider you initial feeling.  Does the place need work or not, remember when you are renting the place should be without serious work, it is only when you are buying that you should start imagining what the place can be.

Now you know what to look for in your new student accommodation, however if you haven’t find that perfect space yet, please go check out our student rentals.  They are truly the best you will find in Jozi and we even has a space for you in Durban too.  Don’t miss this chance, the places are going fast.

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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