Top questions from tenants when renting a property and how to answer them

——  August 4, 2021

Renting a property in Lagos – the most populous city in Nigeria can be quite demanding and tends to require a great level of tenacity not only to secure the type of accommodation one desires, but also to ensure a seamless transition to the new place accompanied with the assurance of a comfortable stay during the period.

Prospective tenants are usually desirous of a comfortable habitation devoid of unnecessary disruptions throughout their rental cycle. And for this reason, they often engage in numerous enquiries right from the word go in order to ensure that their needs are properly understood and will be met by the property owner. Likewise, property owners should know about these questions from prospective tenants for a rewarding property investment experience.

At Beachway Homes, we therefore deem it quite important to be equipped with the right information in such situations so that a desirable prospective tenant does not become discouraged from following through with renting the subject property.  In this article, we will be going over some of the top questions tenants ask and how best to answer them.

I’m ready to make a payment immediately. How soon can I move in?

When looking for a property to rent in Lagos, prospective tenants are in many cases eager to close out early on the transaction for several reasons and this type of question often comes up. This could be because they had been searching for a desirable property for quite some time or perhaps it may be due to the fact that they have now come under pressure to vacate their current abode within a short time. Whenever such a question comes up, one should provide a realistic date for taking possession of the property especially if it is still undergoing renovation.

It is best to avoid giving an unrealistic date due to the fact that one feels pressured to give the prospect some comfort or one desires the property to be let quickly.

It is also important to ensure the standard letting process is adhered to and one should thus proceed to explain the application procedure in detail and ask such tenants to fill out the application form as a first step in commencing the letting process. Adhering to the laid down processes also gives enough time to carry out extensive background checks on the prospects prior to accepting payments.

What information is required for the tenant screening process?

Prospects are sometimes concerned about the screening processes and could be sensitive as to some of the information that is required during tenant selection. Some prospective tenants familiar with background checks may also enquire as to the methodology of checks being adopted. In this wise, it is always beneficial to clarify that the process in place is an objective screening system focused on selecting credible and suitable prospects, and decisions in this regard are made without consideration for race, religion, tribe or other potentially discriminatory factors.

Can I redecorate the property when I move in?

Some prospective tenants indicate their interest in making some spatial or aesthetic changes to the property during an inspection. Usually however, most landlords whilst tolerant of minor re-decoration would not allow any structural or significant spatial changes to be made to their properties and the tenant would thus be required to obtain written approval from the landlord in the event he wants to effect any major alterations. If at all the Landlord does give consent to such changes however, this would be with a proviso that the property would be reverted to its original state at the end of the Tenant’s lease. These points should be clearly and patiently explained to the prospective tenant.

How safe is the neighbourhood?

Although the responsibility for adequately researching the safety of any neighborhood in Lagos or other areas in Nigeria ultimately falls on the prospect, a lot of tenants usually raise this question during the initial inspection and may be inclined to rely on the information provided to them in this regard. If one plans to build a positive working relationship with a tenant over time therefore, it is best to provide him or her with a candid response on this issue. It is unethical and most unprofessional to downplay safety in order to secure a lease. If you find yourself uncomfortable responding to questions of this sort, then you may wish to advise the prospect to carry out his or her own research on the subject and form an independent and informed opinion thereby.

Have other prospects already shown interest in the property?

This can prove a tricky question to respond to as admitting that a property has received little interest or much interest as the case may be, may alarm or discourage the prospect correspondingly and thus affect the letting potential. As in other scenarios, candor is usually the best approach to adopt whilst subtly trying to gauge the prospect’s concerns and addressing them in responding to the question. This should be done in a manner that ensures that the prospect is put at ease and is able to comfortably take unbiased decisions regarding the property.

Are pets allowed in the property?

The answer to this would depend on the Estate or property owner’s policies and a clear and unambiguous answer should be provided as always. Where one is not immediately certain, some time should be requested to enable one revert with an informed answer as it would be irresponsible to allow the tenant to move in with a pet only to find out pets are not allowed on the premises.

Is the rent negotiable? What other fees/deposits are required?

Having the right knowledge of the current pricing rates for similar properties in the vicinity, helps to determine how to engage with prospects during negotiations. Some prospects hope for a slightly discounted rent and fees given their budget. However, instead of allowing yourself to be caught off guard and probably ending up undervaluing the property, consider beforehand the effect of any possible reduction in the passing rent and determine if there are any benefits arising therefrom.  If there are other payments to be made including a non-refundable deposit, these should be made clear from the onset, prior to receiving the rent payment and certainly before signing any documents.

Who will be responsible for maintenance and repairs?

This is usually stated clearly in the lease agreement. The homeowner and the tenant should clearly understand and be fully aware of their individual responsibilities with regards to repairs and maintenance of the apartment and its various components. This should be made clear to the prospect whilst the procedure in place for emergency and non-emergency repairs should be clearly explained and understood by the prospective tenant.

What is the security deposit for?

The security deposit with respect to a rental property is a set amount of money that the landlord receives from a tenant as a hedge against possible damage to the property by the Tenant during his/her lease period. In other words, this money is set aside by the landlord to rectify any defects caused by the tenant and that are not remedied before handing over the property back at the end of the lease.  This deposit also serves to encourage tenants to take good care of the rented property and use same in an appropriate manner and it is a common practice to ask for a deposit in the whole of Lagos including the Lekki Peninsula.

Will I get my security deposit back at the end of my lease and how will this be done?

Many tenants are skeptical about actually receiving a full refund of their security deposit at the end of their lease, believing that some flimsy excuse may be brought up to retain the funds. In this wise, such tenants need to be re-assured that once they are dealing with a reputable property firm such as Beachway Homes, this is unlikely to be the case. This also underlines why it is often times more advisable to source a property through a property firm, offering property management services to landlords, rather than dealing directly with property owners, as the former option allows for a more structured and professional relationship between the two contracting parties.

Notwithstanding this however, tenants should also be advised to do their utmost to keep the rented property in good condition and avoid any unwarranted damages to same in order to ensure their deposits are returned in full at the end of their lease. In this wise, an inventory of the various appurtenances in the property and their condition needs to be taken at the inception of the tenancy and this serves as a reference to be used during the pre-vacation inspection. As to how the deposit would be returned to the Tenant, what happens is that a joint inspection with the tenant would be conducted at the end of the lease to assess the condition of your property using the inventory as a reference, and once all items on the inventory are found to be in the expected condition, this triggers refund of the security deposit to the tenant in full.

In conclusion, most prospects looking for property to rent in and around the Lekki area of Lagos, naturally ask a lot of questions as they try to ascertain that the property on offer is appropriate for their needs and expectations on several levels. The property company’s responsibility in this regard therefore is to provide as much factual information as is available and endeavour to put the prospects’ minds at rest. Being able to achieve this during your first few interactions may mean the difference between signing on a tenant after just one or two meetings or having to conduct repeated inspections with several prospects before the property is let.