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Questions to ask your landlord before renting

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During property viewings, asking the landlord or their property agent the right questions not only helps establish good ties between both parties but will also help avoid any issues during the tenancy.

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To empower you in your rental journey, we listed some queries you should definitely ask your would-be landlord. These have been grouped into three categories – questions related to payment, questions related to moving out, and miscellaneous questions.

Questions to ask landlord related to payment

  1. How much security deposit will you need to pay?

In Malaysia, most landlords usually request a security deposit worth two months of gross rental. For example, if the monthly rental is RM1,200, the tenant will need to give a security deposit of RM2,400.

Notably, the security deposit will be used to pay for any damage to the property or furniture caused by the tenant. If there are no damages, except for ‘fair wear and tear’, the landlord is required to return the full security deposit to the tenant at the end of the tenancy agreement. However, the security deposit may be forfeited in favour of the landlord if the tenant vacates the property earlier than agreed upon.

  1. When is rent due and how will you need to pay?

It is standard practice for the rental agreement to stipulate the exact date the monthly rental should be paid. Typically, most landlords here want the rent to be paid on the first day of every month. Still, tenants can negotiate to pay at a slightly later date every month, but this must be included in the rental agreement.

Under the mode of payment, rental in Malaysia is typically paid via online bank transfers for convenience. But there are cases when the landlord accepts other methods, like cheques and etc, as stipulated in the rental agreement.

  1. What happens if I’m late in paying rent or if I fail to pay?

If it is your first time being late in paying, the landlord will most likely give you a call or remind you about the payment via email or Whatsapp. But in a legal sense, even if the tenant is late once, it is already deemed a breach of the agreement. Also, beware as your tenancy agreement may include a clause that permits the landlord to charge interest on the late payments, or raise the rent if the payment is late.

If the late payments are happening more frequently, or if you are behind paying rent by a few months, the landlord could drop by and ask you the reason for such. If it is justifiable, like you got laid off or there is a medical emergency in your family, the landlord may offer a revised payment structure. Another option for the landlord is to cut their losses and have the tenant move out as soon as possible, even if it means not getting the full outstanding payment. For instance, they can give the occupant a discounted rate if they settle all their outstanding rent and vacate the property.

If the above options don’t work and the tenant is not paying rent, the landlord may send the tenant a letter of demand. Basically, this is a warning letter that states that if you do not pay by a particular date, the landlord reserves the right to go after the outstanding amount via legal means.

If the tenant still doesn’t pay, the landlord can start the eviction process by terminating the tenancy under the Contract Act of 1950 and issuing a notice of possession. Essentially, the notice will state that the landlord plans to repossess the property as the tenant has violated the agreement. Hence, the occupant must vacate the property by a particular date.

READ HERE: Early termination of Tenancy Agreement in Malaysia and its consequences

If the tenant does not move out or ignores the letter, the landlord can now ask the courts for approval to evict the tenant, but the owner needs an attorney to do so and the courts will need a legally acceptable reason to grant an eviction order.

In Malaysia, there are two possible ways for the landlord’s lawyer to get a court order. The first method is to invoke the Specific Relief Act of 1950. However, a court order under this act only permits the owner to recover possession of the property from the tenant, but this does not grant an order to recover the outstanding rental amount. The second method is to utilise the Distress Act of 1951, which allows the owner to reclaim their property and auction off the tenant’s possessions left inside the premises to pay off the owed rent.

  1. How often will rent increase and by approximately how much?

While many Malaysian landlords shy away from raising their rent due to stiff competition for good-paying tenants, there are currently no rules that limit rental increases. Still, it will depend on the signed rental agreement and the rental amount stated there will be the rent the tenant needs to pay throughout the duration of the lease.

For landlords, property agency Metro Homes’ Director K L See recommends raising rent 5% to 10% every two years, depending on market conditions. See also advises property owners to consider incorporating rental hikes in the rental agreement. For instance, stipulate an option for renewal that comes with a 5% increment in the gross monthly rent.

  1. Are utilities included in the rent?

Generally, utilities are not included in the monthly rent. But it depends on the tenancy agreement, as there are cases when the landlord or tenant includes it in the rent as part of their contract. If you are a tenant who does not want to face the hassle of paying the utilities, you can ask the landlord to include the utilities in the rent. Don’t forget to incorporate it in the rental agreement, so it is binding.

As a general practice, when paying the security deposit, the tenant also pays a utility deposit worth half a month’s rent. This amount is used to cover any outstanding utility bills at the end of the tenancy, like power, gas, and water. If there are no unpaid utility bills at the end of the tenancy, the security deposit is returned to the tenant along with the security deposit.

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Questions to ask landlord related to moving in and repairs

  1. What is the process for moving in?

After you have signed the rental agreement and paid all the initial expenses, including the security deposit, you are officially a tenant. What comes next is basically moving in with your things and occupying the property. But before you sign the dotted line, check the inventory included in the rental agreement, and take pictures or videos of all the pieces of the furniture listed there. Better yet, take photos or videos of the entire property along with all the landlord’s assets in it. These documents will come in handy when it is time to move out and will help solve any dispute arising over the security deposit and damaged furniture.

  1. Can the landlord enter the property while tenant lives there?

This is a clear-cut ‘no’. The property owner cannot enter the leased premises without the tenant’s permission. Without the occupant’s consent, the landlord is not allowed to utilise his or her own set of keys to gain access to the leased premises. Without a valid reason, the owner does not have the right to demand that the tenant permit him or her to enter the premises.

Interestingly, the landlord does not have the right to access the leased property without the tenant’s permission either, even if the tenant defaults on their monthly payments. The owner can actually get into legal trouble for trespassing if s/he forcefully enters the property while the tenant is occupying it.

Usually, the tenancy agreement stipulates when the landlord can inspect the property, or when s/he can conduct repairs. This usually involves giving the tenant an advance notice, and this is usually carried out in the presence of the tenant.

  1. How do things get fixed? What gets fixed? Who bears the cost for the fixtures?

When it comes to major repairs like a hole in the wall or ceiling, it is generally the landlord’s responsibility to fix and bear the cost of the repairs, as long as the damage is not caused by the tenant. Also, repairs needed to make the property safe for human occupation are also the responsibility of the property owner, such as repairing door locks or ensuring the toilet flushes. Again, this is as long as the occupant is not responsible for such damages. It is also the landlord’s obligation to fix unsafe wiring and faulty appliances.

Daily maintenance such as cleaning stained flooring and carpets and minor repairs like light bulbs not turning on, these fall under the responsibility of the tenant. However, do take note that the tenant would need to pay for major repairs arising from his or her own actions. For instance, if the tenant held a party and a drunk friend punched a hole in the door, that is the tenant’s responsibility.

Questions to ask your landlord related to moving out

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  1. What is the process for moving out?

At the end of the tenancy, before you move out, the landlord will inspect the property along with all pieces of furniture provided. As mentioned before, it really helps if the tenant took pictures or videos of the premises along with all the items provided. These will serve as proof if the landlord decides to keep the security deposit after alleging that something was damaged by the tenant.

  1. What happens if you need to terminate the tenancy?

There can be serious consequences if the tenant terminates the tenancy agreement earlier than agreed on, but it depends on the rental contract agreed upon by both parties. Usually, tenancy agreements stipulate that the tenant will forfeit their security deposit if they terminate their tenancy early.

Some agreements will state that the existing tenants are required to find a replacement tenant to avoid any penalty for rescinding the contract early. Some agreements may permit a ‘tenancy buyout,’ wherein the tenant must pay the remaining months of owed rent to be able to vacate early. This can be pricey if the tenancy still has many months left.

Nonetheless, there are options for the tenant to terminate the tenancy, provided they were added to the rental contract. For instance, a notice period can be incorporated that stipulates how many months in advance written notice should be given to the landlord to be allowed to end the tenancy prematurely.

A diplomatic clause may also be added, wherein a trigger event such as being reassigned to another place for work may allow the tenant to end the tenancy earlier. Such clauses are usually requested by expatriates working in Malaysia. Lastly, if the landlord violates the tenancy agreement, such as making one-sided changes to the contract or failing to fulfill his or her duties, the tenant is legally permitted to scrap the agreement without any penalty.

  1. What happens if you need to extend the tenancy?

If the tenancy agreement you signed allows you to renew your lease, then you will have no problem extending the tenancy. Otherwise, you may need to talk with the landlord and sign a new lease in order to continue staying. But if the landlord doesn’t want you to remain, it is best to find a new property for rent to avoid issues, including legal ones.

  1. When can you expect the security deposit to be returned once you vacate the property?

When you are vacating the property and an inspection conducted by the landlord finds that everything is in order and there are no outstanding utilities to be paid, the landlord is legally required to refund the security deposit and the utility deposit to the vacating tenant.

Under the law, the security deposit must be returned by the landlord to the tenant within 21 days after the latter has left the premises. If this does not happen, the tenant may send a letter of demand to the landlord to refund the security deposit within a specified period of time. If the letter is ignored, the tenant can start legal actions against the owner.

Miscellaneous questions to ask your landlord

  1. Is parking available? Is there a cost associated with parking?

Parking availability depends on the property. Generally, in condominiums, each unit comes with a set of parking spaces, while landed homes typically have parking space. There may also be parking costs and it varies per development.

Hence, it is better to confirm this with the landlord. If the landlord lied about the parking, this can be grounds for terminating the tenancy agreement for misrepresentation or providing false or misleading information.

  1. Is there a pet policy and will you need to pay a pet deposit?

Sadly, not all landlords will lease their property to pet owners. Some developments are also not pet-friendly. A homeowner may also instruct their property agent to exclude would-be tenants with pets.

Nonetheless, there are some condominiums that are pet-friendly and there are property owners who target pet owners as tenants. But they will likely charge a higher rent for targeting such niche clients and may even ask for a pet deposit to cover potential damages caused by your fur babies.

Hence, if the occupants will include your pets, it is best to ask about the owner’s and development’s pet policies to avoid issues.

DID YOU KNOW…

?4 things renters should do before signing a tenancy agreement
?10 terms and conditions in a tenancy agreement you should look out for
?Stamp duty, administration and legal fees for a tenancy agreement in Malaysia

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