Ask anybody who has ever rented out a property and they're likely to have many stories about "tenant troubles". But forewarned is forearmed, for both the tenant and the landlord, and a mutually beneficial arrangement often starts with ensuring that both parties are clear on the terms set out in the rental agreement.
Renting a property is often viewed as a temporary arrangement, which can mean the tenant is somewhat nonchalant about the agreement, and then gets caught off-guard when something is awry. But by the same token, the landlord has a responsibility to ensure the terms of the agreement are unambiguous and discussed with the tenant.
There are five main factors related to a rental agreement that tend to cause the most trouble for both parties.
Tenants and landlords pay attention to the following:
Rental amount Tenants should start by ensuring they understand exactly what is included and excluded in the monthly rental amount, before signing the lease agreement.
It may happen that costs like that of electricity, water, levies and maintenance are billed to the tenant as additional costs.
Ideally, landlords should be very transparent about costs but it doesn't hurt the tenant to make doubly sure. Tenants may even be charged for once-off expenses like an admin fee for drawing up the lease agreement, the cost of having keys cut or the like.
For tenants, it is a good idea to ask the landlord to list each of the costs in writing, when it is payable as well as expected year-on-year percentage increases where relevant.
Exit strategy Landlords generally prefer that tenants sign a lease for a fixed period (say 6 or 12 months) rather than renting on a month-to-month basis. But it does happen that tenants need to exit the lease earlier. It helps to be informed of the possible penalties payable upon early termination of the lease.
The terms in this regard tend to vary:
In some cases the tenant automatically forfeits their security deposit, while in other cases the landlord will charge the tenant an 'early exit fee' for breach of contract, while some landlords only require that the tenant finds a suitable replacement in good time.
Tenants also need to take note of the notice period, as stipulated in the lease agreement. It is useful to bear in mind that the Consumer Protection Act does make provision for the tenant to terminate the agreement upon giving 20 business days' notice, though the agent may then claim for any losses suffered.
A watertight rental contract will specify the course of action in case of such an event, but the onus is still on the tenant - the signatory on the contract - to ensure they're familiar with this particular clause and to confirm the in's and out's verbally with the landlord.