It is not enough to just ask questions, you have to ask the right questions. If you are speaking to an agent or caretaker, you need to ask questions that will help you make the right decision regarding where to rent. Sure there are general questions like how much is rent. You should also find out how much utilities will cost you every month on average as well as the method of payment. These are important questions but then they should not be the only questions you ask. Ideally, the caretaker or agent should be willing to answer all your questions regardless of how many. Really, do not be afraid of being a bother with your questions.
Locked gate or not?
Does the gate remain locked throughout the day? If it does not, how does the management of the building control who comes into the building during the day when traffic is low and only a few tenants are home? Is access controlled at all? If the gate remains locked, how many non-tenants have keys. This will let you know just how safe your clothes will be on the line. It will let you know just how easy it can be for a stranger to get all the way up to your door. There are all kinds of issues that could come up when the gate does not remain locked.
Apart from the gate, what measures has the landlord taken to keep the tenants safe? Is there a night watchman? Is there surveillance in the building? Find out about these measures as they will help you feel safer when you go to sleep at night. Security is also a big factor for deciding if you are going to live in a building or not. Be sure to create a rapport with the watchman once you have moved in. Not necessarily friendship though.
Possibility of rent increase
This is very important. Every once in a while, situations in the real estate market may warrant an increase in rent. This is often the case if the landlord caters for the utilities. If fuel levy for power is increased then the landlord will need to find a way for that extra cost to be absorbed. Some landlords institute a constant increase in rent every five years which is termed inflationary. You should ask about previous instances of rental increase. This will let you know if you are to expect a rental increase during your stay there.
Penalty for late payment
If life always complied with our wishes, everything would go according to plans. You would remain in the job you love for eons. You would earn a big salary but still have a flexible schedule that allows you to spend time with family and friends. Sometimes, especially if you are a business person, your payments may not come in on time. This means that during those times you might have trouble paying your rent on time. In such an instance it is prudent to talk to the landlord and let them know on time. Some landlords have put measures in place for such situations. A penalty is charged for late payment of rent. You should find out about this on the first day so that you know what our options are.
You would think that in a building where everyone is paying their rent people would be running amok with no rules to abide by. However without rules we are no better than animals. The rules are not meant to restrict people from living freely. They are just meant to promote peace and prevent friction. Find out about these rules and decide if you can abide by them. Do not put yourself in a situation where you would feel too restricted.
If you do not ask about water then you might not find out how bad it is until you have moved in. You should turn the faucet to see if water flows out. If not find out exactly how the management ensures that residents have enough water. Some let the water flow on specific days while others have a tank where tenants can fetch water. Renting in Nairobi with inadequate water can be hard. Most buildings have sufficient water so if you find yourself in one that does not then tread carefully. The point is, know what you are walking into. Regardless of the situation, get water storage. The water authority in Nairobi may impose rationing anytime.
Availability of the house
When can you move in? Some landlords like to do some maintenance before a new tenant moves in. The landlord might want to paint the house or fix a few broken tiles. Whatever the case, find out how long it is until you are allowed to move in. If you are in a hurry to move then this case might not be ideal for you. You can move in and allow maintenance to continue while you are in. You could also find another place. Usually maintenance takes a couple of days so if you can wait, you should.
Chances of loss
How many people have expressed interest? How many have promised to come back in the next day or two? Wat are the chances that someone will pay and move in before you can? You should have a back up plan in case you come back only to realize that it is too late. Most caretakers and agents will exaggerate about the amount of interest there is on the house. The caretaker has instructions to have the house occupied as soon as possible. The agent wants their commission which they cannot get until you have moved in. Therefore, they have every motivation to get you frantic about finalizing. If you are not ready, however, do not be pushed.
Asking the right questions in any situation is paramount. In this situation, it may and probably will affect your renting experience. Question away!