Monday, June 24, 2019
Do you remember the day you first moved out on your own? I do. The experience was both exciting and nerve-racking, finding that perfect place to rent. Yep, I thought I was ready. Fast forward several years and with the aid of NHT, I am now a property owner and as a homeowner looking back, there are things I wish I had known then as a renter. As a result, I thought I would share these five common mistakes most Jamaican renters make when renting a property.
Renting Over Budget
Budgets are not only a great idea; they are vital to being a responsible renter in the Jamaican Market place. Sure, an apartment in Smoky Vale, Cherry Gardens, or Jack's Hill with a balcony overseeing the city would be great, but is it really worth it?
With the cost of living being what it is, living above your means will definitely come back to bite you. If possible, one should always follow the rule of thumb and don’t rent accommodations where the cost of your rent is more than 30% of your gross monthly salary. The stress and embarrassment of falling behind are really not worth damaging your Rental History and your good name.
Signing a Rental Agreement (Lease) without reading it carefully
We all know that Sunday morning frenzy, to locate that perfect property in the classified section of the Sunday Gleaner, setting up the viewing and trying to get there before anyone else, can rush, truly rush the process. But don’t let it. Rental agreements should be given time and consideration, despite how good the property may seem, never commit to a rental agreement before first taking the time to read it. There may be terms and stipulations in the agreement that do not adhere to your lifestyle. Example, having pets, being responsible for major repairs, or frequent visitors. Be clear about what you are entering into before you sign. So if that means taking the document home and having a friend, family, or attorney read it over before putting your "ink" to it, do so.
There is no shame in asking for clarification. Most landlords or property managers are usually more than happy to explain the terms of the agreement in “layman's” terms. After all, they want you to be a good renter, just as much as you would like to be one. Always set up yourself for a successful renter relationship with your landlord
Not checking out the area first
While it may be hard, at times, to determine how “safe” or how “good a fit” a community is before you live there, one should never take this for granted. Safety is usually a major concern for many persons, but this should not be the only consideration for the areas you are considering living in. Items such as noise, utility availability, commuter route, community upkeep, and possible crime pattern are some of the things you should investigate before committing to a lease. It is sad, but not all communities are equal. So ask a neighbour, drive around the community, and finally return to the area after dark, if possible. One question that I usually ask neighbours when investigating a property is, “How is the community during election time?” You would be surprised at the feedback that one gets.
Paying too much for rent
Did you know that Rent Assessment Board, a body of the Ministry of Economic Development, provides guidelines and regulations for the determination of rent? According to the Board, a property’s rent should not exceed 7.5% of the value of the property. As a result, if a property is valued at $12,000,000 and will be rented on a monthly term, the maximum expected rent should not exceed $75,000 per month. This is calculated as ($12,000,000 x 7.5%)/12. However, this does not mean that a landlord cannot request more. According to the board, the landlord would need to apply for special consideration to request rent greater than 7.5%.
I found that speaking to the persons at the Rent Assessment board was quite informative.
Not taking picture when you first move in
Almost everyone has access to digital cameras or cell phone these days and should always document the state of the property at move-in time. You will want to know pre-existing damages on a move-in checklist and get in writing any major repairs the landlord has promised to repair. Apps and Online Systems such as FiwiYaad.com provides a medium to capture the state of pre-existing damages and maintain a move-in checklist. This and other similar platforms allow the preservation of records at move-in and move-out to ensure that properties are returned to landlords in the state they were first rented. You don’t want to be that person who is filled with promises about repairs to be done, but they never get done.
Renters make costly mistakes all too often, but this does not have to be. As they say, knowledge is power and the same is true with renting. Take the time to slow down, do it right and avoid these mistakes to ensure a smooth and enjoyable renting experience. To steal a quote: “Both your landlord and future self will thank you.”