If you are planning on renting an apartment, below is a basic guideline of some of the most important issues to which you should pay attention.
Finding a rental
Searching for an apartment can be an exhausting and time consuming task and it is usually well worth your while going to an estate agent which will save you lots of time and anguish. An agent knows the apartments and will only take you to relevant ones based upon your requirements. Often one goes to view apartments about which owners have given a certain description and upon viewing you find it to be something quite different – like telling you that the apartment is renovated and spacious, when in fact it is far from that. The commission the agent receives (in the case of finding an apartment) is usually equal to one month’s rent plus value added tax. You can easily calculate the benefit versus cost – just think how long it might take you to find an apartment to rent and how much your time is worth.
When to view an apartment
Prior to signing the lease, make sure to view the apartment at least twice, once during the day and again at night. The first time, you want to see the apartment in daylight to check if it is bright or gloomy and whether it is in good condition. It is also worthwhile to see where the apartment is located – check the surroundings, especially if you are working or at home during the day, it is important to see if the area is noisy or busy – is there a lot of traffic nearby. The visit after dark will give you a different impression of the apartment and surroundings, which also needs to be appropriate. When you come to see the apartment, try also to talk to neighbors and other residents in the street in order to find out about the neighborhood, the building or anything else important to you.
Carefully check the apartment prior to signing the lease
It is important to carefully examine the apartment, because the lease will usually oblige the tenant to repair any breakages in the apartment that occur during the term of the tenancy. It is, therefore, important for you to carefully check the apartment in order to ascertain whether anything requires repair. In particular, check well the fittings and fixtures in the bathroom/ bath area, toilet and kitchen, areas that have plumbing, pipes and flowing water which often need repair, similarly air conditioners and other fixtures. The landlord should rent the apartment to you with everything intact, should you agree otherwise, there should be a list of the items in disrepair at the time of your entering the apartment on which you should make a record of their condition. For example: a new refrigerator an old air conditioning unit, and so on.
As tenants, if you are not careful and insistent about this, it might turn out to cost you a lot of money.
Repairs during the tenancy
The landlord is responsible for repairs of in the apartment, caused by general wear and tear – not something broken by the tenants. Usually after the tenant informs the landlord, he is required to bring a skilled worker to repair the item within a reasonable time, or immediately if it is urgent, and of course, to pay for it. Alternatively, if agreed, the tenant can bring in someone to do the repair work and charge it to the landlord, or deduct it off the rent. It is important to ensure that there is a section in the lease agreement clearly setting this out.
The Lease Contract
It is highly advisable to hire the services of a lawyer to review the contract for you and ensure that you do not miss out on any important matters that may affect your life and your pocket. After you sign the lease it is virtually impossible to change what you have signed or to prove that you meant something else.
Important terms: Some important matters in the lease agreement which require special attention include: the description of the apartment (size, number of rooms, if a machsan is included, etc.) – you don’t want to arrive and find that something that you saw when viewing the apartment and expected to receive was not included; sum of the monthly rent; the conditions of payment (monthly or several larger upfront payments during the year); amount of the security deposit (which will be held by the landlord or his attorney and should be returned at the end of the lease).
Ongoing Expenses: Be clear of your expense obligations – lessee pays for utility usage and services such as telephone, internet and TV as well as vaad bayit (house committee) and arnona (municipal taxes). Be sure to check the amount of the house and municipal taxes so as to avoid surprises as they are paid on an ongoing basis. Clearly exclude from the vaad bayit responsibility of the tenant anything that is not covered by the ongoing fee, like major renovations in the shared building.
Make sure all payments relating to the apartment are settled prior to entering the apartment and that there are no debts. You do not want your electricity or water cut-off because a previous tenants debt. Also, take a reading of the water and electricity meters together with your landlord and write down the exact reading at the back of the contract so you will not have to pay debts of the previous tenants.
Term: Be sure to set clear dates for your tenancy (be clear on the entry and evacuation dates). If you do not know how long you want to rent the property, then include an option to renew clause. This clause gives you the choice to extend your contract.
Option to renew clauses also determine whether a landlord can raise your rent upon renewal. Typically, landlords can raise your rent only if it is specifically stated in the option to renew clause. Some landlords might not sign the original contract unless they have the right to raise the rent.
Early exit: Include a subletting clause in your contract. This allows you to sublet your accommodations if you need to move before your contract ends (while providing some extra income). Generally, you will have to find another tenant that is suitable to the landlord to take your place in a sublet.
Furniture & equipment: If you see any large appliances or furniture when you view the apartment that you expect will be there when you move in, make sure the contract includes them. Otherwise, furniture is not usually included and you don’t want any unpleasant surprises with expected fixtures.
Usually, you are supposed to receive an empty, clean and newly painted apartment and to leave it in the same condition. If you have agreed otherwise, make sure that it is included in the contract
Legalese: Verify the identity of your landlord and if he is the property owner. To do so, you must contact your local Deed Register’s office (your attorney can do it for you) – make sure that you are paying rent to the correct person.