Read this before signing that home rental contract

I spent the last few months looking for a residential property to rent, and as someone who has done it quite a few times in the past, I thought I already knew the landscape.

Every renter or tenant knows the drill: check the neighborhood at night, find out if there is continuous water supply 24-7, know if you have to deal with flooding during rainy days, familiarize yourself with transportation options, see if the house is accessible to schools, hospitals, church, market or mall, and so on. Aside from having this basic checklist, you might find the items below helpful in evaluating a rental property.

Make sure the previous tenant did not leave outstanding HOA dues. If the rental property you are considering is inside a subdivision or village, pay the HOA (Homeowners’ Association) office a visit to check if payment of the monthly dues is up to date.

Take photos of damaged areas or items. This serves as proof of the condition of these areas or items upon move-in. Send a copy to your landlord so you’re on the same page. This way, you can be sure that you will get your deposit in full when you leave the premises.

Take your time when shopping around for a home. If you can help it, don’t rush to get the first nice thing you see. Unless the move is sudden or urgent, give yourself adequate time to look around and consider all possible options.

Make sure previous bills have been paid in full. As with the HOA dues, sometimes previous tenants or landlords don’t bother to pay outstanding bills (electric, water, internet, etc.). Ask for the last month’s receipts so there will be no surprises when your first monthly bill arrives.

Be careful on FB Marketplace. There are agents or middlemen who sell the same properties and make multiple posts about it. If you’re not careful, you might end up talking to different agents about the same property! This is confusing and awkward, so be meticulous with details.

Check appliances if they are working well. Don’t take the owner’s/agent’s word for it. Look for the remote control and turn on the TV or aircon. For furnished homes, make sure all appliances are in good condition. Otherwise, have them removed from the premises (and the contract).

Check which internet/mobile signal is strong in the area. We all know that our choice of service providers depends on location. So check if the phone and internet signal in your place is powerful or strong before applying for service.

On your first site visit, bring a measuring tape and document the tour via photo and video. Measure spaces and write down the numbers to make sure your stuff will fit or that you buy the right-sized furniture. Use the pictures and video clip as a reference when planning the home layout.

Prepare a checklist before coming to visit. As mentioned above, a checklist is important. Don’t be the tenant who ooohs and aaahs while on tour because that’s not what you’re there for. Be detail-oriented, thorough, and smart. Write down everything, including your questions, before coming to the rental home so you won’t forget anything.

Lastly, when you have decided to sign, keep the proofs of payment. This is especially true if the landlord or agent can’t give you an official receipt. Prepare an acknowledgment receipt for them to sign and record on video the act of handing over and counting the money. You never know if these proofs will come in handy in the future.