Ready to move into a new rental property?
Don’t sign your life away on the lease agreement until you read our top eight questions to ask before your sign a new lease...
1. Can we conduct another inspection?
Your initial viewing of the property was most likely a rushed affair, as you shuffled through behind a number of other hopeful tenants in the 15-minute window the agent had allocated for the inspection.
If you’re renting with other housemates, it can be tricky to get everyone to attend the same inspection, so arranging another viewing for those who missed out is a good idea.
Even if it’s just you on your own, or with your partner, you might like to take a second look around and note any damage, or take measurements to ensure your furniture will fit.
If that’s the case, ask the agent for another viewing as soon as possible, so you can get the ball rolling on the lease and move in without delay.
2. What has the turnover rate of previous tenants been like?
This question is well worth asking, as it can be a subtle indicator of issues on the part of the landlord.
If the agent isn’t forthcoming with this information, a simple google search of the property should reveal how many times it’s been advertised for rent over the past few years, and the advertised price.
If the turnover is high, it could mean that the landlord is slow to fix problems and the tenants get fed up.
You’ll also be able to see how the rent has been increasing over time, which may be a clue as to how much your rent is likely to go up if you stay on past the initial term of your lease.
3. Can you fix this problem before we move in?
If there’s an issue with the property that you’d like fixed, it’s best to ask about it as soon as possible.
If you sign the lease and entry condition report, the landlord can argue that you’ve accepted the property as is, and they could refuse to repair or replace the problem item.
4. Can we install/connect this product/service?
Want a Foxtel connection in your new home, or planning on installing baby gates on those treacherous stairs?
You’ll need to ask, in writing, if this is okay – preferably before you sign the lease.
Otherwise, there’s no guarantee the landlord will agree to your request, and you could find yourself making do with free-to-air channels or chasing your toddler up the stairs all day for the next 12 months until your lease is up!
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5. What special conditions are in the lease/apply to this property?
Things like drying washing on the balcony, parking outside your designated spot and smoking in common areas can be big no-no’s in these types of properties.
If you don’t take steps to find out what the conditions are, you could end up stung with a nasty fine if a neighbour complains.
6. Is there anything I should know about this home?
You might also want to ask if there are any material facts you should know about the property, such as if a crime has been committed there.
If, for example, drugs have been manufactured or used on the premises, the chemical residues left behind on the walls and in the carpets could be hazardous to your health.
It may sound a little paranoid, but it’s important to protect yourself from the wrongdoings of previous tenants.
7. Can I take this home and read over it properly?
There’s a lot of pressure on you as you sit in the real estate office, painstakingly initialling and signing page after page of the lease agreement until your hand begins to cramp up.
There’s nothing wrong with asking to take the document home so you can read through it thoroughly, and ensure you understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.
If you’re young, it’s a good idea to have a parent or other trusted older person to have a read, too, in case you missed something.
If you find anything that doesn’t sound quite right, bring it up with the agent before you put pen to paper.
8. Can I get that in writing, please?
Never, ever, EVER take a landlord or property manager’s word as gospel – always get written proof and keep it in a safe place.
This goes for repair requests, condition reports, any communication between you and them that could be needed down the track if there was a disagreement.
Should you end up facing off against them at a tribunal hearing, this paper trail can prove priceless.