We’ve all heard of the saying, ‘love is blind’. Well this doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships, but also our feelings towards places we want to live.
Simply put, when it comes to finding an apartment or house to rent, avoid falling in love at first sight. The issue is, when you fall in love with a place, you don’t notice all the small things that are wrong with it. Instead, you concentrate on the good things. And while being positive is a great quality, when it comes to picking a place to live, seeing things through rose-colored glasses can cost you greatly later.
For instance, let’s say you find a 2-bedroom apartment in Upanga within your price range and close to all your favorite restaurants. But you work in Tegeta (about 20 km away), and you spend a total of 3 hours in traffic to and from work every day. While the apartment may be cost effective and have all the features you want, after a while, the long commute may make your life a living hell.
Luckily, when you are evaluating potential apartments to rent, there are a set of questions you can ask the landlord that will help you decide if this is the right place for you.
1. What are the neighbors like?
Whether you are moving into an apartment building or a neighborhood, getting along with your neighbors will make your life so much easier. So, it’s important to understand the type of people you will be living around, and if their lifestyles match yours.
For instance, if you plan on throwing parties or having a lot of people over, then knowledge that your neighbors are mostly families who go to bed around 10pm may inform you that this isn’t the right place for you.
2. Is electricity, water and gas included in the rent?
Essentially, you need to figure out what’s included in the rent and what isn’t. This will help you figure out if you can afford to live there.
3. What is the internet and cellular connection like?
This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s important to know if your network is strong or poor in that area. Most of us rely on our mobile devices to communicate and work every day. So, a seemingly little inconvenience like dodgy network can make your living experience difficult in the long run.
4. What are the terms of the lease?
Ideally, the first thing you should see before you make an offer is the lease. This is a document that explains the terms and conditions of your agreement with the landlord. The lease includes information on:
- The cost of rent
- The penalties for breaking your renting contract
- What’s included in the rent (electricity, water)
- Policy for raising the rent (how many months in advance will the landlord let you know?)
5. What’s your pet policy?
While most Tanzanian’s are not pet lovers as much as, let’s say, Americans are – many do have domesticated animals (who are not farm animals).
So, if you have pets or feel like you may want one at some point, it’s important to find out if the place allows animals. If the apartment is furnished, some people may be hesitant to allow animals like dogs and cats that may destroy furniture.
6. What’s your guest policy?
This is especially important for people who are renting in an apartment building. Imagine not being allowed to have your cousin stay over for more than two days? While many landlords are not strict about guests, it’s always important to check – so that you are not always hiding friends and family who come for long visits.
7. How do you handle emergency repairs?
This is critical. You should know:
- If you are supposed to handle repairs? (Hint: You shouldn’t unless it was your fault)
- What is the expected time frame between reporting a repair and getting it fixed?
- How do you negotiate paying for damages?
8. How does parking work?
Whether or not you have a car, make sure to inquire about parking. It will always come in handy if you have family and friends over.
If you are interested in renting a house, chances are there will be room for at least one car. However, many places (especially with multiple tenants) may only have street parking available. If this is the case, then ask follow up questions about security in the area, and if there is a guard to look after your car.
9. What other features are included?
Beyond running water and electricity, landlords may offer other benefits that can influence your decision on whether or not to rent a place. Popular features include: furniture, generators, swimming pools, cleaning service and security guards. So ask questions like:
- Does the place have a generator? If so, who is responsible for the maintenance and fuel costs for the generator?
- Does the place come furnished?
- Is there a cleaning service in the apartment complex?
10. Is the area safe?
Once again, it’s important to feel secure in your home. So ask a lot of questions about safety in the area:
- Are there common incidents of petty crime?
- Is there security in the premises?
- Is it safe to walk at night?
Moreover, if you are a woman who doesn’t have a car, it’s important to know whether you can walk safely at night or if need to take precautions.
Hint: In addition to talking to the landlord, walk around the neighborhood and ask people in the local shops and businesses about the area. Your potential landlord wants an offer, so it’s not in their best interest to be honest with you if an area is unsafe.
Don’t let your emotions pick your apartment
The apartment search can be grueling, and you may get super excited when you find a place that seems perfect. Keep your enthusiastic emotions in check, and thoroughly inspect the place to determine if it is truly the right pick for you. Because once you sign that lease, it’s very difficult to get out of it.