Gab Learns Renting a Home

Lesson Six: Renting a Home

Have you ever rented a property? Lived in a rental while you looked to buy your own house, or perhaps renting is your preference? When renting a home there are plenty of things you should look at, loads of questions you should ask, and why? Well, to make sure you are living in a warm, dry and comfortable home (even if you don’t own it)! Gab asks these questions and learns the answers – many of which are very similar to those you should ask/learn when looking to purchase a home.

What should you check for when looking for a rental?

When searching for a rental (home), start by looking at things that look wrong such as:

  • Cracks on the walls – probably wrong
  • Walls bubbling or wavering – probably wrong
  • Smells musty or like a wet towel – probably wrong
  • Lot of stains and cracks in the attic – probably wrong

Unfortunately, as a renter you’re not in the position to fix these issues, so it’s best to say thanks, but no thanks.

When you are inspecting the property make sure you check outside the house as well – is the garden maintained well? This can be a pretty good reflection or indication of how the landlord maintains the property overall.

Things that might indicate the landlord isn’t on top of maintenance:

  • Exterior cladding hasn’t been water blasted (which by the way, did you know in Canada they call this power washing?), or painted in a while
  • House isn’t clean, cobwebs and general maintenance hasn’t been upkept
  • Under the house has garbage or miscellaneous things thrown there (while you’re under the house also check for holes, cracks, insulation and a membrane
  • Bathroom fan or vent (if there is none, please ask for one to be installed)
  • Cracked window frames in the bedroom/s
  • Doors that don’t stay open, or don’t close properly

Do the same rules apply for an apartment as they do a house?

Typically, yes – check windows, touch surfaces, smells, look for cracks etc. However, apartments are more difficult to inspect because you can’t access the floors, the attic or the underground, and generally there is only one door in and only one wall of to the exterior. Make sure you check near the windows and doors for cracks or movement, if any carpet has been replaced (even just a strip) this could be a sign that there have been issues with condensation. It’s also worth checking what ventilation system the apartment has to ensure that moisture is being removed, and new fresh air is being properly ventilated.

Once you have identified the home you want to live in, what do you need to check or take note of when moving in?

Hopefully before you have moved in, any issues identified before you moved have been rectified. If there were tenants living there previously, make sure the property has been well cleaned, and that there aren’t any other new issues found as a result of the them moving out.

Check the home is well insulated—that is insulation in the walls, floors and roof— and see if you can find out the type of insulation – you might be able to check this in the building declaration.

Do another once-through of the house to make sure that all items have been fixed after your first inspection.

What are the things that are going to significantly impact you when living in a home?

These are some of the components that will make living in your home both uncomfortable and unhealthy:

  • Cold surfaces – this is mainly from little-no insulation in walls and/or aluminum joinery on single glazed windows. Sure, you can get thermal curtains to temporarily block feeling the cold from the windows, but this won’t solve the problem – particularly if the heat is still escaping through the walls!
  • Lack of heating – if there is no heating device you will need to buy one yourself, and skill yourself on how to manage heating best [refer to Lesson One: Heating].
  • Lack of ventilation – if there is a fan in bathroom use it as often as possible. If there isn’t one, install one otherwise your only other option is to open your windows all day.

What are the top things everyone should do when living or when renting a home?

The top three things to keep in mind and help keep your home as healthy as possible:

  1. Keep your heater on – consistently. Even at night and when you’re out. Keep the temperature of the house between 18 and 25 degrees all day and night. If you use your heater intermittently it means your heater has to work that much harder to increase to a comfortable temperature (and you could be collecting condensation).
  2. Ventilate properly – if you have a bathroom fan, use it! Or buy an easy to install one. Another option for ventilation: Buy a box fan, place in a window or external doorway to either blow moist or smelly air out, or to pull fresh/cool air in (depending on which way you face it) for a comfortable interior environment.
  3. Communicate with your landlord – update your landlord about the building performance and ascertain if they are open to helping improve the health and performance of your home. If they are uncooperative, perhaps remind them of their responsibility to provide a healthy dwelling, and your right to live in one. If they’re still uncooperative, you could take them to the tenancy tribunal, but it might be easier to just find a new place to live.

What are the red flags landlords should be notified about?

Kiwis are great at fixing problems, DIY, or thinking ‘she’ll be right’ and gritting through discomfort – but there comes a point where you should notify your landlord about the building performance, because ultimately this goes hand in hand with the occupant’s health. Let your landlord know when:

  • There are leaks in the building – outside is coming in!
  • There is one spot of your home where mould keeps growing (regardless of heating/ventilating) no matter how often you clean it – call landlord or building specialist like Oculus ASAP
  • An area of the apartment smells – possible condensation, or a rodent under the house
  • Window breaks – make sure this is replaced/fixed properly
  • If the fan in kitchen or bathroom doesn’t work/broken – ventilation is key to a healthy home

Finding a rental isn’t a walk in the park, but the ideal scenario when you do find a property is that it’s a home that you don’t have to improve. If there are too many factors that need changing, perhaps continue your search – in the long run (or park walk) you should be able to find yourself a home that is warm, dry and comfortable. And the landlords that aren’t willing to improve their property to provide a healthy home? Well they don’t deserve your rent money. Let their property stay vacant until they realise they need to renovate.

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