At some point in life, one has to rent an apartment, no matter the size, duration or cost; however you need to take serious pre-cautions to avoid renting an inhabitable apartment or spend extra cost on repairs
– By Ranti Adedeji
In recent times, location has ceased to be a determinant of where to live, but you have to consider how easily accessible your new location is to your place of work or business. These days people live in Mowe, Shimawa, Ikorodu and Sango, Eleko, Akodo, and Langbasa, yet work on the Island due to ease of access with public transport and private vehicles. Very soon, a good number of people will soon be coming to work on the Island from Badagry when the on-going road expansion and light-rail projects are completed. A short distance with traffic bottlenecks could make long distance with lighter traffic situation preferable.
Before you pay for any accommodation in the location of your choice, check the water level and drainage line to ascertain that the building is not prone to flooding during the rainy season. You can determine this by standing right in front of the house and compare it with the road level, which could make it vulnerable to flooding if it is lower than the road level. You can also walk round the premises to see if there is any watermark on the fence or on the building itself. Where there are glaring watermarks, it is an evidence that the compound has a history of over-flowing drainage, either from the front or back of the house. Personal valuables are known to have been lost through this avoidable menace.
Similar to this are bubbles on the lower parts of the inner walls of the building which is the typical characteristics of water percolation from bathrooms or directly from the ground through the foundation. This is more serious and difficult to remedy. During the rainy season, you may be surprised to see pool of water right in your bedroom or all over your apartment. Water seepage through cracks on the floors, or even walls, are also dangerous and should be attended to before letting.
Most buildings that do not have functional floor boards could sustain cracks between the foundation and the walls, where these are not attended to, they often cause water seepage, especially in areas where they could be difficult to detect. Areas like under the bed, inside wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, or even bathrooms; and a lot of havoc would have been done before being detected. Before you rent, check these areas properly to see if there are watermarks, which could be dangerous.
Check if there are dark spots on the ceiling, which is an evidence of rainwater leakage. Buildings with old and leaking roofing materials often display these marks where leakages are pronounced. Although, it is easy to submerge them with fresh layers of white paint, you need the first rain to expose them, by then it would have been too late. If you notice such dark spots anywhere in the ceiling, ask to know the history and if any repair has been carried-out on the roof in recent time. If you are not satisfied with the answers you are given and to satisfy your suspicion; go outside of the building and check that part of the roof to see if new roofing sheet has been installed or roof cement pasted on the spot recently. Your conviction or otherwise would determine if the building is worth living, at least, for another year.
Find out what is paid as monthly amenities bills, especially for PHCN, water rate, LAWMA and private security arrangement, (even if it is a gateman). This is necessary because they constitute monthly additions to the rent. For instance, if the rent is N450,000 monthly and additional N25,000 is incurred on PHCN; N8,000 on water; N6,000 on LAWMA and N6,000 on security, it means you will be paying N45,000 in addition to the rent; making it N495,000 monthly.
It is common knowledge that mischievous estate agents would not want to disclose these payments in order to lure unsuspecting tenants, but it is your responsibility to find out. You have to know if your earning can conveniently accommodate the extra costs or you need to look for another apartment with lesser amount as rent or where the additional costs are minimal.
You also need to ask the agent if the previous tenant has outstanding bills on the amenities. This is because PHCN, for instance, would always insist that the new tenant inherit the bills for power consumed by the previous one. This has often led to argument, which would have been prevented had the new tenant asked before moving in.
If you are seeking accommodation in serviced apartments, you must find-out what services would be provided and what the service charge would be on monthly basis. Although, most agents handling serviced apartments would disclose the service charge to every intending tenants, but you have to confirm from the on-set, in order to save yourself some embarrassment when presented with the bills at the end of the month. Better still, you could be denied any of the services, in case of default.
For instance, cleaning of common areas; alternative power supply, private security arrangement and general maintenance normally attract monthly payment in serviced apartments. In some instances, residents have had to be at loggerheads when some refuse to pay; as at when due. Those who do not comply with laid-down rules for diesel in some estates, often have their power supply, through generator, cut-off until they pay-up.
Check the cost of immediate repairs of kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, doors and windows to see if it is not too much for you to bear, otherwise discuss it with the landlord or the agent to factor it into your rent or carry-out the repair himself. Not many landlords would consider it appropriate to repair apartment left by a tenant before bringing-in new one. The general notion is that it would eat into what would be collected as new rent, hence shifting the necessary repairs to the in-coming tenant.
However, take stock of what needs to be done. Is the water supply effective? What about electrical installations? Are doors in good shape and the locks working properly? What about windows? Do they have broken glasses and torn mosquito nets? What is the condition of the kitchen cabinets and wardrobes? Do they still have their doors and shelves intact or they are falling-off already?
The repairs are the responsibility of the landlord who may instruct his property manager or estate agent to handle them. In case they are not done and you want the house, find out if whatever you spend would be deducted from your next rent, but you need to have a written and signed agreement before you start any work, otherwise, “you are on your own.”
Find out the spate in rent and at what percentage. The thought of indiscriminate review of rent upwards seems to be the attraction of some investors into rental property, Even though, most landlords and estate agents are conscious of the law guiding rent, they may still insist on having their ways. So, it is your responsibility to find out at what interval the rent is being reviewed and at what percentage. Your pocket would also determine whether to abide with the decision or look for another apartment.
One year is indeed a very short time to live in an apartment and the money paid may be considerably small. However, it could be “hell on earth” if proper checks are not conducted before paying and moving-in. The panacea is to ask as many questions as possible from the landlord or the agent. Finally, make sure that there is a written and signed agreement between you and the landlord or the agent. It will go a long way to prevent probable hassles in the future.