Top tips for new renters: Eight things to know before you apply
Getting your first rental is a rite of passage into the big wide world. You’ll have lots of fun times nesting in your own space. But there’s a lot to learn to make it a great experience.
1. Be prepared to wear out your shoe leather.
You’ll need to sign up with several local rental agencies and keep a hawk eye out on TradeMe and Realestate.co.nz until you find the one – and get accepted. Before signing the tenancy agreement ask yourself: is it in good condition? Will it be cold in the winter? Is it secure? Tip: Find out if you are expected to mow that football field-sized lawn out the back? Can you park off road? How far is the bus stop/supermarket/pub?
2. You need squillions of $$$$ up front.
If you’re living on the bones of your credit card limit, it can be difficult to get the money together for your first rental. You’ll need to pay up front for up to six weeks’ rent in advance as bond, PLUS the first two weeks accommodation, PLUS two weeks rent as a letting fee if you go through a real estate agency. Tip: If you’re really lucky, your landlord may let you pay some of this off over time. In most cases you’ll have to borrow the money to get your foot in the door.
3. You’ll need to sell yourself.
Sometimes hundreds of people attend viewings. Get yourself to the front of that queue by looking clean, tidy and professional; that means having all the necessary detail in the application and having a good attitude (which includes not letting your kids run amok). Tip: Make sure your car is spotless inside and out. Landlords and agents often take a peek to avoid letting to messy people.
4. You pets will cause you trouble.
Many more rentals are available to people without pets. We know that Charlie’s the best behaved dog ever. But all your landlord can see is damage caused by pets. Pets in rental properties often destroy curtains, urinate on or rip up the carpet, scratch doors and walls and so on. Tip: By law landlords can’t charge you an extra ‘pet bond’ over and above the maximum bond even if you want to.
5. One year is one year.
Landlords usually want you to sign up for a fixed term of one year. If you do so, you can’t just up and leave – even if you’re saddled with the landlord from hell. If you move out before the year’s up, you’ll still need to keep paying rent until the landlord finds a new tenant. You’ll also have to pay for the advertising costs. Once the fixed term ends, or if you sign up for a periodic tenancy then you only need to give 21 days’ notice to leave. The landlord must give 90 days. Tip: Make sure you give notice in writing, include the address and the date you’re going to leave and the letter is signed by all the tenants who signed the tenancy agreement.
6. You might burn the landlord’s house down.
Great party, but the pot on the stove catches fire and burns your landlord’s house down. Don’t laugh, this has happened and it cost the Dunedin students big time. Tip: Most contents insurance policies include liability cover, which pays out if you damage your landlord or neighbour’s house or other property accidentally.
7. It feels like you need a law degree.
Only joking. But your tenancy agreement is a legal document. If your landlord breaches the Residential Tenancies Act by doing things such as turning up unannounced or failing to fix security you can complain to the Tenancy Tribunal. Tip: It doesn’t always need a full Tribunal hearing. You may be offered telephone mediation instead.
8. You need to keep your credit record clean.
Landlords can and do check potential tenants’ credit records. Guess what? If you’ve done a runner from rent or bills in the past the chances are you won’t get a look-in on the perfect house you’ve just found. Check your credit file with illion, Veda and Centrix to see if there are any blemishes (you can check your credit score right here with Credit Simple). Pay off outstanding debt to clean up your record. Tip: You might need a guarantor if your credit record is a little blemished.
Finally, happy house hunting.
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