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Tips for Renters

How to Rent a House or an Apartment

The rental market in Belize is cyclical: a few boom years with renters scrambling for any available rental property followed by a glut in availability. In either scenario, the most desirable rental properties are snapped up the quickest. Talk to your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional and do your homework before hitting the streets looking at random rental properties.

Conducting the search

Step 1

Be prepared: Platinum International Real Estate will help you create a renter's résumé with your current and previous five addresses and landlord phone numbers, your employer and length of employment, your current salary and other income, personal references, among other information. Include copies of your bank statements. You want to look as good on paper as possible to stand out from other applicants applying for the same rental property.

Step 2

Look in the newspaper classifieds and online for available units to investigate. Ask friends about openings in their neighborhoods or buildings. The best resource for rental property is by contacting your local Platinum International Real Estate Rental Professional.

Step 3

Consider how much you can afford to pay. A good rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your take-home monthly income.

Step 4

Enlist the help of a Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional to narrow your rental property search based on your criteria. This service is actually free of cost to you.

Step 5

If rental units are too costly you may want to ask us about our roommate service if you're looking for cheaper space to share. Be clear with your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional what qualities you desire in a roommate, as well as types of people or habits you'd prefer to avoid, such as smokers.

Attention to Details

Step 1

Inspect the property carefully with your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional. If there's any damage, you not only want to ask that it be fixed, but don't want to be blamed for it later. Make sure such problem areas are addressed in a lease, either by your agreeing to live with it, or the landlord agreeing to fix it by a certain date.

Step 2

Check out common walls (walls shared with adjoining apartments). The more walls in common, the greater the chance of noise from next door. Also consider a common entrance in terms of how much privacy you may want.

Step 3

Ask your agent about all the amenities such as enclosed parking or a garage, a yard, storage, laundry facilities, pool, tennis, gym or concierge services.

Negotiating the deal

Step 1

When you find a home or apartment you love, but is a stretch financially, we can always ask if there are responsibilities you can take on to lower your rent, such as cutting the lawn, sweeping common areas or taking deliveries for the building. If your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional finds a great home or apartment but it lacks services such as utilities, laundry facilities, cable TV and Internet access, we can always ask the landlord to throw some in at no charge. Many newer homes or buildings will or offer to sign a longer-term lease or give a higher security deposit in exchange for more services.

Step 2

Be sure to examine your lease in detail and make sure to address any questions you may have with your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional: How much notice is required prior to moving, how large a deposit you have to make, how much cleaning is required upon leaving to get your deposit back, and other provisions. Some agreements require first and last months' rent plus a security deposit--a significant chunk of change. Is the lease month to month, or a 6- or 12-month period?

Step 3

Ask your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional to find out what kinds of cosmetic changes you can make, such as painting walls, or structural changes, such as adding shelving.

Step 4

Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professionals can always ask for a “lease with an option to buy” if you'd be interested in purchasing the property down the line.

How to Save Money: Renting a House or an Apartment with Platinum International Real Estate.

Step 1

Pick the house or apartment that you want to rent. This step can be found in the previous article (How to Rent a House or an Apartment), we won't cover it here. This article assumes you are ready to rent and want to save money.

Step 2

Your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional always asks for more than you think you'll get. Most people expect to negotiate about 10% off the rent. We start by asking for 20% or more off, plus we are not afraid to ask for extras.

Step 3

Read this example. If we see a house for $700/month plus a $500 deposit, we try to offer $550/month and a $350 deposit.

Step 4

Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional will let the other party know you want the house if they can get the price and terms right. "Wow, our client loves this place. We just don't think the numbers will work for them though."

Step 5

We will make the landlord think you have options. "They found a few places that fits their budget perfectly. They'd rather live here though, as long as it fits in their budget."

Step 6

Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professionals makes concessions to show that our clients are cooperative. In the example in step 3, when the other party responds with, "You're crazy, there is no way I could do $550/month and a $350 deposit." We can counter with, "Well, our clients could pay $600 a month and a full deposit, but only if they can pay the deposit over a period of 6 months." If the landlord accepts your offer, then our clients would still have saved $1200 on rent, NOT BAD!!

Step 7

If step 6 does not work, we do not cave in, we just walk away. "We’re sorry we can't reach a deal. Please be sure to call us if the situation changes because we would love to work with you." (Fear of loss is greater than the loss itself).

Ten Tips for Tenants

Know your rights when you rent a house or apartment.

1. Bring your paperwork.
The best way to win over a prospective landlord is to be prepared. To get a competitive edge over other applicants, provide the following Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional so they are fully prepared once they meet the landlord: a completed rental application; written references from landlords, employers, and colleagues; and a current copy of your credit report.

2. Review the lease.
Carefully review all of the conditions of the tenancy before you sign on the dotted line. Your lease or rental agreement may contain a provision that you find unacceptable -- for example, restrictions on guests, pets, design alterations, or running a home business. Your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional will help you in reviewing your lease or rental agreement.

3. Get everything in writing.
To avoid disputes or misunderstandings with your landlord, your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional will make sure to get everything in writing. We will keep copies of any correspondence and follow up an oral agreement with a letter, setting out your understandings. For example, if you ask your landlord to make repairs, put your request in writing and keep a copy for yourself. If the landlord agrees orally, send a letter confirming this.

4. Protect your privacy rights.
Next to disputes over rent or security deposits, one of the most common and emotion-filled misunderstandings arises over the tension between a landlord's right to enter a rental unit and a tenant's right to be left alone. If you understand your privacy rights (for example, the amount of notice your landlord must provide before entering), it will be easier to protect them.

5. Demand repairs.
Your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional will advise you of your rights to live in a habitable rental unit -- and don't give them up. The vast majority of landlords are required to offer their tenants livable premises, including adequate weatherproofing; heat, water, and electricity; and clean, sanitary, and structurally safe premises. If your rental unit is not kept in good repair, you have a number of options, ranging from withholding a portion of the rent, to paying for repairs and deducting the cost from your rent, to calling the local building inspector (who may order the landlord to make repairs), to moving out without liability for your future rent. For more information, Speak to your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional

6. Communication with your landlord.
Your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional will keep the communication lines open between you and your landlord. If there's a problem -- for example, if the landlord is slow to make repairs -- talk it over to see if the issue can be resolved short of a nasty legal battle.

7. Purchase renters' insurance.
Your landlord's insurance policy will not cover your losses due to theft or damage. Renters' insurance also covers you if you're sued by someone who claims to have been injured in your rental due to your carelessness. Renters' insurance typically costs $350 a year for a $50,000 policy that covers loss due to theft or damage caused by other people or natural disasters; if you don't need that much coverage, there are cheaper policies. For more information about renters' insurance, contact your local insurance agencies.

8. Protect your security deposit.
To protect you and avoid any misunderstandings your Platinum International Real Estate and Rental Professional will make sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the use and refund of security deposits, including allowable deductions. When you move in, do a walk-through with the landlord to record existing damage to the premises on a move-in statement or checklist

9. Protect your safety.
Learn whether your building and neighborhood are safe, and what you can expect your landlord to do about it if they aren't. Get copies of any local laws that require safety devices such as deadbolts and window locks, check out the property's vulnerability to intrusion by a criminal, and learn whether criminal incidents have already occurred on the property or nearby. If a crime is highly likely, your landlord may be obligated to take some steps to protect you

10. Deal with an eviction properly.
Know when to fight an eviction notice -- and when to move. If you feel the landlord is clearly is the wrong (for example, you haven't received proper notice, the premises are uninhabitable), you may want to fight the eviction. But unless you have the law and provable facts on your side, fighting an eviction notice can be short-sighted. If you lose an eviction lawsuit, you may end up hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in debt, which will damage your credibility and your ability to easily rent from future landlords.

Rental Terms

  • Tenancy Agreement
  • Tenant Databases
  • Rent and Bond
  • Security Deposit
  • Property Condition Reports
  • Renters Insurance
  • Preparation
  • Paying Rent on Time
  • Keeping Records with Agents
  • Routine Inspections
  • Repairs
  • Rent Increases
  • Giving Notice
  • Sub-letting
  • Communicate

Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement that you enter into with the rental agency or the landlord. Before you sign anything, make sure you read and understand all the conditions of the agreement. If you are unsure or don’t understand anything, don’t sign, ask questions or seek your Reef Realty agents advice. At the time of signing the tenancy agreement, your agent must inform you either verbally or in writing that if you breach the agreement your personal information may be listed on an adverse Tenant Database.

Tenant Databases

Tenant databases provide agents with personal information about the previous tenancies of prospective tenants where there have been problems abiding by the tenancy agreement. This information helps agents to assess if a prospective tenant is likely to be a financial risk to the landlord’s rental property. You are only listed if the tenancy agreement is terminated.
The agent must advise you in writing of their intention to list you and the reason(s) for doing so. The agent must give you a reasonable opportunity to respond, this includes time to review and correct the personal information about you that the agent intends to list on the database. Be sure to keep a copy of all communications.
The agent must quote your objection in the database if you disagree about any of the details they intend to list. You can still be listed if the agent fails to contact you but has made reasonable attempts. You can only be listed for specific reasons and you cannot be listed for minor breaches of a tenancy agreement.
What Reasons can I be listed on a Tenant Database:

  • Owing Money to the landlord for rent or damage caused intentionally or recklessly to the premises. Note: only if the amount owing exceeds the amount of the rental bond.
  • Failure to pay a sum of money to the landlord in accordance with an order of the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
  • Where the Tribunal has issued a termination and possession order for breach of the residential tenancy agreement.
  • Where the Tribunal has issued a termination and possession order for serious or persistent breach of the residential tenancy agreement where the Tribunal has issued a termination and possession order for serious damage or injury.

Rent and Bond

The rental agency or landlord may require you to pay the regular first month’s rent and security deposit normally equivalent to 1 or 1.5 months’ rent or may ask for rent in advance and a security deposit of between 4 to 6 weeks’ rent (rental bond) when moving into a property depending on your financial risk to the landlord. Before moving into the property ensure you discuss how much money is required and when payment is required, the rental agency or landlord usually requires cleared funds.

Security Deposit

You may be required to pay a deposit or reservation fee to secure the property by the landlord. In some cases, if you decide to change your mind it is possible for you to lose this deposit. You must understand the arrangement that you have with the agency as to how the deposit may be handled, i.e. refundable or not.

Property Condition Reports

When move into the property, your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional is required to complete a condition report, which documents the condition of the property when you take possession. It is important that you take the time to accurately complete this report to minimize disputes with the agency at the end of the tenancy, taking photos is a good idea to minimize disputes.

Renters Insurance

It is important to know that the owner’s insurance does not cover the tenant’s possessions; therefore it is the tenant’s responsibility to insure their belongings and furniture. This is normally referred to as Renters Insurance by your Insurance Broker, if you do not have an insurance broker Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional can make recommendations.

Preparation

Areas in high demand can be competitive for tenants. Therefore it is important to impress a prospective rental agency or landlord and be well presented and prepared by a Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional. Platinum International Real Estate will help you to obtain references from your previous landlord(s) and employer(s) prior to inspecting properties, this will give you a competitive edge over other tenants and prove to the agent that you can afford the rent and properly maintain the property. Such items to obtain may be; a printout of your tenant ledger, copies of routine inspection reports, bond refund documents or even pay slips.

Paying Rent on Time

In the tenancy agreement it is a condition that rent must be paid on time and in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the agreement. Paying your rent on time is your responsibility. Not paying rent on time could cost you the possibility of eviction and a potential reference from the rental agency.

Keeping Records with Agents

In order to reduce the possibility of disputes or misunderstandings with the agent you should consider keeping notes and records of conversations that take place with the agent once you have entered into the tenancy agreement. An easy way to do this is confirming your understanding with the agent by sending a signed letter of agreement.

Routine Inspections

Regular inspections by the rental agency or landlord are generally a legal requirement as outlined in the tenancy agreement, they ensure that the property is being cared for properly and no damage has occurred.

Repairs

It is your responsibility to look after the property which should be maintained in good repair. If any problems arise it is important to report problems or concerns in writing to the rental agency.

Rent Increases

Rental increases are a common occurrence when renting a property especially in areas of high demand. If a rental increase occurs the real estate agent must do so in accordance with any local and national requirements and issue tenants with the appropriate notice in writing.

Giving Notice

Terminating a tenancy must be done in accordance with the tenancy agreement and local and national requirements. You should discuss the notice requirements with the rental agency when giving notice. Always submit your notice in writing and if possible directly to the source.

Sub-letting

Before you can sub-let the premises you must have the written permission of the landlord of the property. A landlord can refuse permission for you to sub-let, even without reasonable grounds. The tenancy agreement you enter into with the sub-tenant should be for a shorter period than you entered into with the landlord. The sub-tenant pays rent to the tenant; therefore it is still the tenants’ responsibility to pay rent to the landlord. It is important to know there is no legal contract between the sub-tenant and the landlord, thus if a problem occurs with the sub-tenant, it is your responsibility.

Communicate

Open and honest communication is the best way to maintain a happy and professional ongoing relationship with the Rental Agency. Always keep the lines of communication open with your Platinum International Real Estate Agent and Rental Professional to ensure a positive relationship and a direct link between you and the landlord or the rental agency representing the landlord.