Queries to ask your landlord before signing that lease

Thursday October 11 2018

A common mistake most people make before moving into a rented house is overlooking key aspects of a lease agreement. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


A common mistake most people make before moving into a rented house is overlooking key aspects of a lease agreement.

Other than how much rent one will pay, the location and whether the deposit paid will be refunded when they move out, there is more to the agreement that should be considered.

Most people end up in bitter terms with their landlords during their stay or when it is time to move, especially with deposit refunds, late payment and fixing damages. It is even worse when there is no written agreement except for the common casual oral agreement.

BuyRentKenya Chief Executive Officer Lizzie Costabir shares some of the key questions you should ask your prospective landlord before signing a lease agreement.

What are the terms of the lease?

It is hard to defend yourself if something goes wrong when you have a verbal conversation with your landlord. Whatever you agree on, make sure to put it down in writing.


Ask for clarification if there is something you don’t understand in the lease. If you are going to part ways with your money, you might as well know what you’re getting in return.

Can you move in after the start date of the lease?

Most times, landlords will ask for rent at the start of the month. But what happens if you want to move in at a later date? Will the landlord allow you to pay prorated rent? That is, you only pay for the time you occupy the house? You need to understand the payment dates so that you only pay for the time you’ll occupy the house.

What happens if you move before your lease expires?

You don’t rent a new place with expectations of moving out before the lease expires. But circumstances will force you to do so. For instance, when you get a new job that is far from where you live and you’ll be forced to move closer to your place of work.

If it is not stated in the lease agreement, the landlord needs to tell you what penalties or fines you will pay if you break a lease.

You could end up losing your rent deposit just because you didn’t agree with your landlord in advance on what would happen. Knowing the rules set in place beforehand will help you plan your move in advance even though it is on short notice.

What are the payment options?

Landlords have different payment options for their tenants. Some accept cheques, others want M-Pesa and some would rather accept a cash payment. Knowing how you will pay your rent will help you plan in advance to avoid rushing the last minute.

Will you get your rent deposit back?

Getting the full rent deposit back is usually something many tenants struggle with. If damages occur to the house during your occupancy, the landlord will deduct money in the name of making repairs. Before you sign the lease, ask what constitutes a reduction on your security deposit.

Is there a grace period for paying rent?

Each landlord specifies when they expect the tenants to pay rent. Normally, it is between the 1st and 5th day of every month. While there is room for late payments, don’t assume that it applies everywhere.

Find out in advance when you should clear your rent to avoid issues with your landlord. Knowing when you need to pay your rent will help you plan ahead before your salary.

Who has access to your house?

If there is an issue in your house that needs fixing like a blocked sink, the caretaker would have to come to the house to check what the problem is. But that doesn’t mean they can come and go whenever they please. Discuss with the landlord in advance how such issues will be dealt with when they occur.

Can you entertain guests past certain hours?

There are people who will get you into trouble with your landlord from all the noise making they do when they visit. Know what the policy on hosting guests states to avoid any troubles in the future.

Are you allowed to make changes in the house?

People want to live in a space they love and feel at home. But sometimes getting that “perfect” house is difficult especially if you are renting.

For instance, you can find a spacious house that has a colour which doesn’t fit your personality. It is not uncommon for you to want to paint the house after you move in. Or maybe the wall has no hooks to hang your paintings.

Before you decide to make any changes to the house, find out from the landlord if it’s acceptable.

Who fixes damages?

When you move into a new house, take note of broken locks and windows. Ask your landlord if he has any plans of making repairs before you move in. Also, visit each room and take photos of the house before you move in. If you are blamed for any damages, you will have evidence to show that you found the place that way.

Finally, the more questions you ask, the better it is for you to understand what you are getting yourself into. You want to protect yourself from getting upset if anything goes wrong. A lease agreement is binding and once you sign it, you are consenting to whatever is in it. If you don’t read it properly, you only have yourself to blame.