How to be a good tenant

The rental market is becoming increasingly competitive and, if you want to secure the rental property you really want, then you need to become known as ‘a good tenant’. Landlords want to hold on to good tenants, and real estate agents have all sorts of ways of vetting whether you are one – or not.

Just Property shares five tips that will help you rate as a top tenant:

Lift that credit score

Landlords are not only concerned about your income. They want to see how you’ve managed financial commitments in the past, as this is a leading indicator of your ability to pay your rent on time and in full. A good credit score will put them at ease – but if your credit score is not good, you may need at least six months to improve it.

Some tenants worry that a bad experience or an oversight can leave a long-lasting negative impact on their credit (e.g. a Telkom account that is running up an outstanding balance even though you closed the account). Others worry that running credit checks can leave a ‘digital footprint’ that itself has an impact on their credit score. “Talk to your rental agent about your concerns and they can help you navigate them”, says Just Property CEO, Paul Stevens.

Be a good match
How to win over an agent? Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for. “Arriving with a list of your requirements saves everyone’s time and will impress the agent managing the property,” says Joe Alves, award-winning Just Property agent for Blouberg. Include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need; whether require a garage or are happy with a parking space/s (specify how many); a description of your well-behaved pet if you have one; your must-have level of security; and whether you need to be near shops, specific schools, public transport and hospitals etc.

Read the fine print
Many tenants feel awkward about questioning clauses included in a lease, but remember, you are going to have to abide by what you agree to, so it’s in your interests to ask for explanations around anything you don’t understand or are unhappy about. Pieter van den Berg, one of three brothers who own Just Property Prosper, a leading real estate agency in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs, says that this actually makes for better relations between tenant and landlord as everyone knows exactly where they stand. “It’s also important to establish upfront whether there are any additional costs over and above the monthly rental etc.,” he adds.

Save the date!
If you were a landlord or a managing agent, what would be your number-one priority once a lease is in place? That the rental and all other costs are paid timeously. This is probably the first thing that’s noted when another landlord asks for a tenant reference. If you want to be known as a ‘good tenant’, establish a record of timeous payments. “It creates trust and can even have an impact on the rent you pay – landlords don’t want to lose a good tenant, and when the annual increase is due, may be prepared to negotiate,” says Melissa Bee, the Just Property agent for the City Bowl. “Tenants sometimes forget that many landlords rely on the rental of a property to put food on the table, pay their bond, and keep on top of maintenance. Don’t be late!”

Of course, life can throw curveballs. If you’re unable, temporarily, to pay on time, let your agent know. “We understand and so do landlords that things like retrenchment can be devastating,” says Liesl Alves of Just Property Blouberg. “The important thing is to let your agent or landlord know as soon as possible. If you’re one of our ‘good tenants’, we can often work together to find a solution.”

As if it were your own
The portfolio managers at Just Property Prosper are responsible for over 1 000 rental properties, so they know what landlords appreciate. “Our best tenants treat the homes they’re leasing as if they were their own. They are scrupulous about cleanliness, inside and out. Most will happily see to general day-to-day maintenance and small repairs themselves”, says Van den Berg.

Veronique Eachus, a leading Just Property agent in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), adds that they also communicate quickly when there are problems such as water leaks, trees/plants that are damaging or may damage structures, etc. “We tend to hear from these tenants before a small issue becomes a huge problem. They’re happy to arrange access as required for the contractor or the landlord/agent if the damage needs to be expected. All around, they’re a pleasure to deal with.

“Great tenants also always ask permission before making changes such as knocking nails into walls, adding a satellite dish, or painting walls,” Eachus adds. “And they understand that in terms of their lease, they need to restore what has been changed to its original condition when vacating the property.”

Stevens concludes, “Follow these tips and you’re sure to become a top tenant and enjoy your pick of rental properties, as well as a happy relationship with your landlord and letting agent.”

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