Trouble-free rentals: tips for tenants

Under ideal circumstances, renting a property should be a smooth and hassle-free process, but unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan.

Disputes between rental agents, landlords and tenants are all too common, and can sour the rental experience for everyone involved. Thankfully, according to Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Property Group, preventing this kind of situation as a tenant usually just requires a little bit of knowledge, planning and attention to detail.

Here are his tips for tenants, and a happy, headache-free rental.

Budget conservatively – The cost of living is on the rise, which means a rental at the edge of affordability now may become more than you can handle at a later date. It’s far better to budget conservatively and have some wiggle room, than to risk falling into arrears and facing potential eviction down the line.

“If you do find yourself in financial difficulty,” says Rawson, “it’s best to be honest with your landlord or letting agent, as they will be more likely to make allowances if they are aware of the situation.”

Read the fine print – All your rights and responsibilities as a tenant should be outlined in your lease agreement, so read it very carefully and make sure you understand everything it contains. Check notice periods, rent increase procedures, and any penalties or fees that may be levied, as well as rules of conduct, and any expenses like utilities that may be billed in addition to your rental.

If you’re unsure of the legalities, Rawson recommends talking to an objective professional rather than taking a chance.

“It’s generally easier – and less stressful – to avoid signing an unfair or illegal lease than it is to resolve any resulting disputes further down the line,” he says.

Check for red flags – It’s not always possible to talk to a previous tenant about the rental property you’re considering, so make sure you check for issues like water pressure and cellphone reception that might not be immediately obvious, but could be difficult to fix once you move in.

You should also keep an eye out for warning signs that could indicate bigger problems. A particularly run-down property, for example, might mean a landlord who habitually neglects his maintenance responsibilities.

“That’s not a good sign that future problems will be repaired appropriately,” Rawson says.

Insist on an incoming inspection – Make sure you conduct an incoming inspection with digital photographic evidence in the presence of your rental agent or landlord. The purpose of this inspection is to make a note of any pre-existing defects in the property – cracked tiles, damaged fittings, stains and so on – so that you can’t be held responsible for them at the end of your lease.

“Remember,” says Rawson, “your landlord isn’t obligated to fix these defects at this point, unless they directly affect your ability to use the property for its intended purpose. If there’s something seriously wrong, it’s better to note it early and specify in your lease agreement that it is to be repaired before you move in.”

Participate in the outgoing inspection – You’re far less likely to have uncalled for expenses deducted from your deposit if you’re present during the outgoing inspection conducted by your rental agent or landlord. Bring a copy of any defects listed on your incoming inspection, photographs and any relevant correspondence relating to repairs or maintenance issues that have arisen during your stay.

Know your rights – The Rental Housing Act recognises the right of property owners to receive reasonable returns on their investments, but obliges them to look after their properties and treat tenants fairly. From privacy, to the repayment of deposits, property maintenance and the Rental Housing Tribunal, this act outlines all the rights you have as a tenant.

“The best advice I can give a tenant,” says Rawson, “is to read the Rental Housing Act. This can be found on the

“If you are still concerned about potential pitfalls, consider approaching a reputable rental agent rather than searching for a rental property independently. A good agent will be able to recommend a well-managed property that suits your particular needs, and you’ll be able to relax in the knowledge that the contracts and procedures comply with all the applicable legislation. A good rental is one that benefits landlord and tenant, and a capable rental agent can go a long way towards making that possible,” says Rawson.

  Comment on this Article

  Please login to post comments

Post to my facebook wall
Characters remaining

    Latest Property News
    • 20 Apr 2018
      Whenever changes in the political ecosystem of a traditional property market create uncertainty, smart investors begin to look elsewhere for new opportunities. Property experts at IP Global have analysed the trends and crunched the numbers to find new markets to explore in Europe and the United States.
    • 20 Apr 2018
      Energy and water self-sufficiency are increasingly important factors in home buyers’ choice of property – especially in Cape Town where the extreme drought of the past few years has made municipal supply costly as well as uncertain.
    • 19 Apr 2018
      During the last decade, rampant development has progressively transformed Cape Town’s property landscape with densification being the order of the day, but there are still one or two hidden gems like Scarborough which have retained their original character, offering an inimitable lifestyle and an attractive investment opportunity.
    • 19 Apr 2018
      The rental market is a cut-throat sector of the real estate market that waits for nobody. According to Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, first-time renters need to be fully prepared before they even start the process of looking for a place to rent in order to avoid the disappointment of losing out on their ideal property.
    • 19 Apr 2018
      Choosing to buy your first home instead of continuing to rent is a big decision that will usually take some time to put into action, but the sooner you can save up a sizeable deposit, the closer you will be to reaching your goal.
    • 18 Apr 2018
      Selling your home is no small task and as you will quickly find out, there are a lot of misconceptions about the process. Gerhard van der Linde, Seeff's MD in Pretoria East lists the top 5 misconceptions when you are selling your home.
    • 18 Apr 2018
      The Cape Town municipality is now installing water-management devices at properties that have been non-compliant with the new level 5 water restrictions and there are talks of fines between R5,000 and R10,000 for households that use too much water.
    • 17 Apr 2018
      The recent interest rate cut has stoked the coals in the first-time buyer’s market. At least for the next two months until the next interest rate announcement, homeowners are guaranteed lower monthly instalments than in the previous quarter. But, is it wise to take out a 100% bond just to enter the property market while interest rates are low?
    Subscribe to the MyProperty Newsletter

    Last Name  
    Email Address  
    Email Frequency
    Share this Page

    For Sale Property
    Rental Property
    More Options
    Connect with us