Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions by renters. They should give you an idea of what renting in general and in Nairobi specifically is like. These questions will not be answered by the caretaker unless you ask them. In some cases, they might even evade the question so they do not commit to anything.

1.Will you be safe?

This depends on many things. It depends on the neighborhood you choose to live in. It also depends on what steps you take towards securing your safety. What has the landlord done to ensure the security of residents? You can only be proactive about your safety and hope for the best. There is no definitive way to answer this question in a  way that assures you. However, it is important not to look constantly scared. Look confident even when you feel shaken.

2. What do you do before you move out?

The first thing is obviously to give notice. This will let the landlord prepare funds to refund your deposit. You should also do the pre-move inspection. Match the state of the unit now vis a vis when you first moved in. This should let you know if your deposit will be deducted or if you will spend some money to pay for repairs before you move. You should also clean the house before you move. If you had borrowed some things from neighbors like basins or pans, this would be the time to return those things.

3. How do you know what house size to rent?

This depends entirely on you and your situation. How big is your family? What is your budget? What do you prefer? How many household items do you have? It is best to go for the smallest possible. This allows you to save on rent. It also keeps you for taking on an extra cost for maintenance. If you have a three-bedroom house where the third bedroom remains unused. It means that every month you pay more for cleaning when you could be spending less on that. You should also consider things like the possibility of family members crashing with you when they are in town. If there is a possibility that a relative will move in with you in a month or two then you should probably get enough room for both of you now rather than move again when they come.

4. How much more over the rent and deposit will you need?

You will pay for the water deposit. This is a fee many landlords ask for to go towards water provision. The amount depends on whether you will be asked to pay a water charge every month. Some will ask for as much as 5,000 shillings but not bill you. Others will only ask for 500 shillings but bill you every month. You might also be asked to pay an electricity deposit. Some landlords will ask for an agreement processing charge. This is usually 2,000 shillings or less. In some cases, you might be asked to pay two months’ rent worth of deposit. The terms will be different everywhere. You must ensure to ask about this before you commit though, lest the charges are sprung on you after you have moved.

5. Can you paint your favorite color on the walls?

This will depend on where the landlord stands on that issue. That means that you have to ask for permission. If the landlord says yes, they will probably stipulate that you return the walls back to their original color when you move out. Some might even say that you have to use a painter of their preference. In commercial rental though, it is expected that you will make such changes to the interior. This will be included in the rental agreement. In the case of commercial renting, if the color is not too gaudy or radical, the landlord might let you move out without repainting when you move out.

6. Can you sublet?

Do you mean to move out of the unit completely and charge another person’s rent? Or do you mean having someone move into the extra room and have them pay you a small amount? The former is a definite no. It will probably be included in the rental agreement. The second is a gray area though. While the law might frown upon you gaining financially from another person’s property. It may also be seen as two people sharing the rent. It may be looked at as two roommates. You might want to keep this from your landlord and caretaker as well as warn the sub-letter not to inform them. There is no telling what the repercussions will be.

7. Is it legal for the landlord to increase the rent?

Yes. The landlord may increase the rent on their building if they wish to. The illegality comes in how the increase is executed. First, if the landlord is the owner of a protected tenancy then they may not have a legal standing to increase the rent unless upon consultation with the Rent Restriction Tribunal. Also, if the landlord gives no notice of increase whatsoever then the tenant has grounds to complain. The landlord should give at least a one month notice before the increase is active. This gives the tenants time to adjust or move out and find alternative residences.

8. Can the landlord use the spare key?

What is the reason for using it? Is there an emergency? Does he or she have permission from you to use it? Have they given you notice of entry into your unit? If the answer to the last three questions is no then the entry is illegal. The landlord should not enter the tenant’s unit unless by express permission. Even when they give notice that they will be conducting inspections, they must wait until it is convenient for the tenant. They should not simply let themselves in. If there is no permission or an emergency then it will be a case of breaking and entering.

9. Who will do repairs?

How did the broken item come about? Did you break it due to carelessness? Was it an accident?  Either way, this will be your responsibility. The cost of repair will be on you because it was broken under your care. It is akin to borrowing a friend’s car then getting involved in a fender bender. You would repair the car, it is only courteous. However, some cases are not your responsibility. For example, if you moved into a house with one broken window pane then it falls off completely a few months later that would not be on you. The landlord should have fixed it. It fell off as a result of damage that occurred before your time. Be careful about repairs, they can easily get worse. You can also be very easily saddled with repairs that should not your responsibility. This is how many landlords excuse retaining your deposit.

10. What will happen if your rent is late?

The rental agreement should tell you what to expect when you are late on the rent. Some landlords will institute an interest rate. Others will give a grace period after they take a piece of property as security that you will pay. Others will only let you be late twice before putting a padlock on your door and subsequently evicting you.

If you think you are going to be late on the rent, you should talk to the landlord and let them know. Some will understand your plight and give you some time to come up with the money. If you do get such a pardon then be honest and truthful.

11. How do you deal with difficult neighbors?

In most cases, your best course of action will be to ignore nosy neighbors. However, in some cases, you may be required to defend yourself. Do not get physical though. Do not issue threats. Do not destroy property. If it seems like the other party is spoiling for a fight then try to involve the landlord or any other third party. There should be someone there to keep the situation from escalating. You will need to keep a level head. Try to have a conversation with them soberly.

Being a Nairobi enter requires some form of finesse. If you seem like you do not know what is owed to you or if it seems like your expectations are too low, you will be taken advantage of. You should be knowledgeable. You should talk to people who have experience if this is your first time renting. All the best!