We often do not realise or take care of some basic things while renting a property or hiring domestic help and later run into problems which could have been avoided with little consideration. This column explains some basic questions that you need to ask or check beforehand.
Query: I recently moved to a new city to work and will be living alone. While looking for a place to rent what should I keep in mind given that I’ve never lived there before?
Wherever you decide to rent, the primary considerations should be the following:
Personal and family safety needs to be given priority in all aspects of life
While dealing with the landlord:
— Is the property genuinely owned by the person who has put it on the market or does he have relevant written authority to do so?
— Payment terms agreed should be mentioned in the contract.
— Avoid cash transactions at all costs as it’s difficult to provide a paper trail to prove the deal was made in case of a dispute. Also it is unsafe to carry large sums of cash around.
— Sign the documents in the presence of the owner or person with written approval to rent.
— Ask for the reason for the owner to rent the property; this could give you a clue to how long you could possibly rent and not face curtailment of a contract or need to change the property at expiry of the contract.
— Is your lifestyle compatible with what the owner is seeking? Understand any concerns they may have such as having guests over, holding religious events at home, or even your dress sense.
— Maintenance charges vary; understand what is covered and what is not by the landlord.
Regarding the property:
— Does it have regular supply of utilities (water, power, etc.).
— Water supply is 24/7 or at certain hours, if so do these hours match your availability, if not then you may require spare tanks to ensure you have a supply of water.
— If you are concerned about drinking water then what is the time it can be delivered or do you have to purchase from a store.
TIP: Talk to the guard of the building or that of a neighbouring house to understand the true picture of the utilities’ supply.
— If you are moving into a shared space understand how you can lock your portion.
— Is the property near a market place or even a convenience store that is open during the hours you may be present?
— Who are your neighbours; would you want to live next to a person of interest or high profile that brings unwanted attention.
— Do you have parking facilities that are secure or are you expected to park on the road outside the property? It is important to ensure that your vehicle is not subjected to vandalism or theft.
— The availability of public transport is important to know.
— Are there any quality 24/7 medical facilities nearby?
— How far is it from your work place? You’ll need to understand the traffic situation to know how much time will be spent in commuting.
— Can domestic help easily reach the residence? It is particularly important given that they may be required to travel long distances and thus may be irregular in time keeping.
TIP: References always help whether it’s for an area to consider, a particular landlord or domestic help. Do not hesitate to ask your colleagues? You may also find that your colleagues are also looking for a property and could be feasible to find a property together and split the cost.
Query: What’s the best way to check the backgrounds of domestic help and where can it be done?
Authorities continually stress the need to check the background of anyone you are hiring before you do so. However, just what you can and can’t do is never readily explained. Following are some basic things to consider:
— References are important check with:
Current or ex-employer (especially reason for leaving)
The area guard or the building or property manager
— Always ask for the original ID card and make a copy of it yourself for your record.
— Take their complete current address, even try and locate it if possible. ID card addresses aren’t always where they reside.
— Police have a form that can be filled and filed with them and they’ll advise if there’s any police record on the individual.
— Use a reputable placement agency.
— While interviewing the servant, clearly state what you expect and lay down the law that even a minor infringement will result in dismissal from service.
— Be mindful of discussing plans for yourself or the household in front of them.
— Don’t leave children unattended at home with them.
— Lock up valuables; no matter how honest they are, temptation can be powerful and remember their financial status is never better than yours.
— Don’t permit unnecessary number of visitors for them and if they have to discourage having their visitors inside the house.
— Don’t permit them to bring others with them while they’re working in the house, that’s an additional person you need to keep a watch over.
— Never give them keys to every section of the house no matter how long they’ve served with you. Your Panic Room must never be discussed with them.
— Always provide them short notice if you’re to be away for an extended period and take any keys given to them.
Norbert Almeida is a security advisor.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 26th, 2015