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Expat Life

7 Things You Should Know Before Signing Your Rental Agreement Abroad

7 Things You Should Know Before Signing Your Rental Agreement Abroad
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Moving to a new place? New city, new apartment, new friends, ahh! It’s the start of a new life altogether. While it’s all very exciting, don’t let it get the better of you; be thorough in your research. When moving abroad, finding a house is one of the main concerns. Apart from the rent and moving charges, here are 7 things that you need to know before signing on the dotted line.

1. Tenant Laws & Rights Of The Country

Tenant Laws & Rights Of The Country
When you meet a realtor, enquire about the locality, the apartment owner and also about the tenant laws applicable in the country where you plan to move. If you find yourself a good landlord who is willing to sign the rental agreement, do read each point carefully. Note down all the intricate details in the lease paper in order to safeguard yourself from any nasty surprises in the future. Look for any additional fees, including application fee, security deposit, amenity fee, etc.

If you’re not clear about the charges, don’t hesitate to clarify your doubts with your landlord. For instance, in some California cities, a rent-control programme limits the amount of rent a landlord may charge and also limits the reasons under which the landlord can evict the tenant. In Wales and England, all tenants have the right to minimum 28 days of written notice to vacate. In Scotland, a written tenancy agreement is a must. Remember, a tenancy agreement must be signed by both the parties to ensure transparency.

2. Utilities & Bills

Utilities & Bills

If you plan to stay in a complex, there are certain utilities that become a part of your rent. Therefore, it is necessary, as a tenant, to read the lease agreement carefully. Make a note of the utilities that are included. The utilities that are usually part of the rental agreement include gas/heater, electric and water. However, if no utilities are included in the rental agreement, you need to keep that in mind whenever you crank up the AC, leave your lights on, or take a long shower.

3. Pet Policy

Pet Policy

If you are a pet lover, then you’ll definitely want your furry friend to be allowed into your apartment. In this case, it is important for you to check beforehand if pets are allowed. Ensure that your apartment lease allows for pets.
Usually, landlords charge extra if you have a pet. Also, often there are restrictions on the kind of animal, the breed, etc. so read the rental agreement carefully before committing to anything. Also, there are cases wherein the owner might ask you to deposit additional pet rent each month; read the fine print carefully as in this case you will have to shell out extra bucks for rent.

4. Damages

Damages

This is a crucial point to look for in a rental agreement. It usually includes the damages that have to be paid for after the lease agreement is over. It is necessary for you as a tenant to check the condition of the apartment before renting it. It is very important to ask the landlord for defective conditions in the rental property, and also to settle on the procedures for handling maintenance and repair.

Generally, the tenant is not liable to pay for the damages that already exist at the time of leasing. However, if there is any damage that occurs during your tenure, then you are liable to pay for the same. The amount is usually deducted from the security deposit before renting the apartment. There are a few landlords who give a paperwork to fill out before you move in that allows you to list down any damages. This helps you to document the problematic areas and can help you get your entire money back at the end of the lease term.

5. Subletting

Subletting

If you want to save on rent, a great way to do this is by subletting a part of your apartment to someone else. Therefore, when looking for houses, do ask the owners if you are allowed to sublet the apartment or not. Most landlords usually require the subletter to sign a lease agreement, rather than just allowing subletting without any notification.

A couple of things that you should know before subletting are the guidelines for subletting, the penalty for breach of contract, need for a guarantor, etc. It is advisable to discuss your subletting plans with your landlord or realtor before subletting a part of your apartment. It is a good option to sublet if you plan to go home during your college break as in that case, you don’t have to worry about the rent.

6. Customization

Customization

Everyone loves to decorate their home with pictures. If you plan to rent a place for a couple of years, please ask your tenant if you can drill into the walls for hanging pictures or artworks, or if you are allowed to repaint the walls, etc. The rental agreement usually details out the extent of customization that one is allowed to make. It is very important to ask the landlord for defective conditions in the rental property, and also to settle on the procedures for handling maintenance and repair. The Pointe at State College, USA, allows for decorations that are of temporary nature and do not permanently deface the walls. In case the walls are permanently defaced, the landlord has the right to charge extra at the end of the rental agreement.

7. Length Of Agreement & Renewal

Length Of Agreement & Renewal

A rental agreement can be as short as three months and can be as long as a year depending on the city and availability. When signing the rental agreement, make sure that the date of moving out is as per your convenience. Also, ask if there is any flexibility that the landlord offers in case of emergency. Also, before signing, please ask the owner of the building if the lease can be terminated depending on the need and future prospects.

In South Australia, the landlord or tenant can only terminate the agreement under certain conditions. The tenant or landlord may be liable for compensation depending on the nature of the agreement and the reason for eviction. According to Washington law, there are different types of notices that landlords can serve tenants with. An eviction notice should first be served properly only if the tenant has failed to comply, pay, or vacate within the specified timeframe. The most common notices to vacate are a 3-day notice to pay or vacate, a 20-day notice to terminate the tenancy and/or a 10-day notice to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or vacate.

Whilst weighing all your options, it is important to keep in mind the fact that the rental lease binds you and the owner party via a legal contract. Therefore, it is important to read all the terms before signing the legal rental agreement. Also, ask for clarifications if you are not clear about the terms, for its always better to be safe than sorry.