Renting Safely 101: Preparing for an Inspection

As a Tenant in South Africa, and most other countries, it’s inevitable that you will have to experience at least one inspection of the home you’re renting. These cause tenants a lot of stress simply because many people don’t know or understand what is expected of them.

We’re here to show you that with a few simple steps you’ll ace your rental inspection securing either another year on your lease or your full deposit back. 

The Early Bird…

Landlords and agents are by law required to give you at least 24hrs warning for an upcoming inspection but most, you will find, will give you a week or two’s notice. As soon as you know the date for the inspection is locked down, start to do little things every day to prepare for it!

It’s much easier to spread the preparation over a number of days, rather than killing yourself the night before. Deep clean the bathrooms one day, the kitchen the next and if need be, plan to do repairs over the weekend!

Make a list and check it twice

Inspections are not just for the benefit of the Landlord, they’re also a great opportunity for you to feedback to the Landlord about any ongoing maintenance issues that you have that are outside of your responsibility.

For example, in a furnished rental, if the TV remote found itself smashed through the screen while watching the Protea’s choke on their last wicket or your children’s crayon ‘artwork’ is on the walls or you broke a window while moving something on the balcony, that’s your responsibility to repair.

However, if the water pressure in the shower is dismal, a plug point keeps tripping or there is a leak in the ceiling; these are all structural issues and are the Landlord’s responsibility to take care of. Just remember its your responsibility as a Tenant to inform the Landlord of the issues.

Get Small Kids And Pets Out Of the House For The Day

Inspections can be quite stressful on your pets or small children. Strangers walking in and around your home can be very unsettling for pets and if you need to show the Landlord around you might have to leave your child unattended. If possible ask someone to watch or take them for a walk during the inspection.

 

Clean The House And Any Outside Areas

If you love where you live, you’re happy with the rent and the Landlord is chilled and out of your hair, you should really be doing everything within your power to make sure they allow you to extend your lease – this means you need to show that you care for their property/investment.

If you don’t have the time to be on your hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen and the shower with a toothbrush you can always make use of a cleaning service to give the house a good once over before the inspection. 

The outside area (if you have a garden) should be an ongoing project for you during your lease period. If you are unable to manage the monthly maintenance of the garden (but wish to renew the rental agreement) it might be a good idea to make use of a gardening service.

Take A Deep Breath

Unless you’ve totally taken the piss and done damage to the structure, the rental inspection should only last about 10-15min and should involve the Landlord taking a walk around to check for any major damage or potential future issues.

Make sure your place is neat and tidy, there are no distractions during the inspection and all should be fine. 

Renting Safely 101: Searching for a great Landlord

When you’re in the battlefield that is rental house hunting, sometimes it’s quite hard to spot a good Landlord in the fray. In a bid to quickly secure a rental that matches exactly what you need, you might overlook certain tell tale signs that can warn you a Landlord might become ‘admin’ down the line.

The Good, The Bad, and The Down-Right Scary!

Lets face it, not all Landlords are nice, awesome or understanding. Some Landlords are from hell and you don’t want to be stuck dealing with them for 12 months.

A good Landlord is someone who knows that the best way to service their investment is to make sure that the people living there are properly taken care of and that their Tenants not only pay their rent on time, but treat his property as if it were their own.

A bad Landlord is someone who cares very little for their investment and even less about the person living in it. So what signs can you look out for?

 Your face when the Landlord says the first person to qualify and pay the deposit will get the place.

Your face when the Landlord says the first person to qualify and pay the deposit will get the place.

 

Really LOOK at the property

Most properties are repainted on the inside when a new Tenant arrives. What are the interior walls painted with? Does it look like the Landlord watered down the paint? Can you kinda see through it? What about the cleanup? Are there paint blobs on the skirting boards?

When you’re viewing the place take photos and tell the Landlord you’re doing it! Not only is this great for posting to Twitter with “Oh Em GEE @beckyxox look at that view! ” but it lets you document the state of the rental before you take ownership. If the Landlord has any issues with you doing this it might be a sign that they’re prone to withholding some (if not all) of your deposit when you decide to leave.

Inspect the state of the external walls & fences, garden and driveway especially in rentals that are free standing. Are the fences & walls in a maintained state? Security is important and a flimsy or broken wall might be a security risk and will definitely impact your insurance costs!

Really LOOK at the Landlord

Is your every communication with them on a different email address, using a different phone number or even with many different ‘names’ or parties? A Landlord here to to business is a professional and will act like it.

Most of the time they will speak to you with one number (being their landline and/or mobile) and almost always from the same email address. If the first email you get is from JamesSmith98@gmail.com and the next is from standardbank15@hotmail.com, or the Landlord only communicates only via whatsapp or from public phones you should probably step away from the deal. (Please report them to us .)

They’re asking you to provide a lot of personal information for your application, you’re fully within your right to ask them some questions about the rental history. How long have they been renting the place out for? Whats the average lease length? Have they had to evict any of their previous Tenants and why? Google their full name as well as the mobile number they use and see if there are any hits that match them. Would they be willing to give you the outgoing Tenants number for you to call?

Do they seem to be ok doing a ‘verbal lease’? Not only is this illegal but it doesnt protect you, the Tenant, at all in a court of law. This is a big one.

What is their attitude like and where do they stay? Landlords are allowed to schedule non-frequent site visits (with a proper notice period) to inspect their property. This is normal but be aware if they plan to do spot-check visits as this is not only a privacy issue but is a real pain to deal with.

 

Its also worth mentioning that you should trust your gut here. If the Landlord is giving you weird vibes you should probably walk away. Better that than being stuck in a long term contractual agreement with someone who could evict you, withhold your deposit or even worse, stalk you on Facebook.

Renting Safely 101: Deposit Key Scams

We work hard to make sure that we do everything in our power to verify and validate the information that is presented to our users. We take great pride when our users help us by reporting potential scammers, and fake/suspicious listings that slip through the gaps.

Today we’re launching a new series of articles called “Renting Safely 101” where we will cover various aspects of renting safely from both the perspective of a Tenant and Landlord.

Deposit Key Scams

At its base a Deposit Key Scam is a variant of a 419/Advance Fee scam. It involves a party (in this case the fake landlord) requesting an upfront payment from the Tenant to secure the rental contract on a property.

So how do you protect yourself?

Don’t be fooled by photography

Just because the listing page has nice looking images, doesn’t mean that the building actually exists or that the ‘landlord’ is the legal owner. Ask the Landlord for additional photos or a video of the space, as the legal owner will have access to the place. If they are unable to send more make sure their reason is believable.

Look at the context of the photo and ask the Landlord about any inconsistencies. Example would be seeing photos of stairs but not seeing a multi level external shot. Sometimes these scammers will steal photos from other legitimate listings to make up their fake listings.

You can also look to use technology like Google’s Street View feature to confirm that the property you’re renting actually exists at the address given and any external images of the property match the ones used in the listing.

Be careful of the cheapest properties

If prices seem too good to be true, there is a good chance they probably are. If you don’t have a feel for what a reasonable price is in an area, take some time discovering the average rental prices in your area. Rental rates well below the market average should immediately be approached with caution.

Always try to negotiate. This is not just to potentially get a better deal, but also to detect odd behaviour from the Landlord. Many times the scammers will use ‘template driven’ communication and swinging a curve ball can force them into tripping over their toes.

Never pay with cash

Scammers preferred methods of payment are cash and cash-transfer services like MoneyGram and Western Union . This is the surest sign of a scammer. Use a credit card or EFT to pay deposits because they offer audit auditable trails that can be used to refund monies or track down the scammer.  There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or any ‘key’ deposit.

Any Landlord who is here to do legitimate business is going to have a bank account and will allow you to transfer directly into it. If they request cash so that you can immediately secure the rental you can use a same-day-transfer from most South African banks (for a fee) – but you should only do this after you have seen and signed a rental agreement that states all parties ID and contact details.

Landlord is based overseas

“Dont worry, He has a plan to get the keys into your hands.” It might involve their lawyer or family member but they’ll ‘drop off’ they keys.

If you can’t meet the Landlord in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking.

Bad grammar in emails

While a typo here and there can be forgiven (especially when replies are “sent from mobile device”, rental Landlords are professionals, and you should never receive emails that are riddled with poor grammar.

Ask to speak to them over the phone. You can ask specific questions about the rental and feel free to ask for past Tenant Reviews– especially if you’re suspicious. It should be an immediate red flag if the Landlord is unwilling to have a quick phone call with you prior to you securing a rental.

Trust your instincts

If you apply a small degree of skepticism to the process of house hunting, you’re more likely to see red flags and catch suspicious behaviour. Legitimate Landlords are here to do find a Tenant to service their investment for the next 12+ months.

You are fully in your rights to request further verification of their ownership. Make sure to verify that the full names match up with the person you’re dealing with via email or on the phone.

Don’t let ignorance be your downfall. Stay updated with all the latest tips and news from Ekaya by creating an account.

Reporting Scams

Ekaya.com attempts to verify our Landlords but some rentals that are indexed from other sites might slip through those checks. If you suspect that a listing might be a scam do your part and report it, or email us.

If you want to report a fraud attempt or actual fraud you can do so on the South African Fraud Prevention Service website.