Many expats arrive in Malaysia with little or no experience in renting accommodation. Here are some tips and advice on renting an apartment in Kuala Lumpur. The same advice pretty much applies to renting a house.
1. There are several ways to find suitable accommodation. You can browse websites such as www.iproperty.com.my or www.propwall.my or look in the English speaking newspapers or call a property agency. If you have already decided on an apartment building where you’d like to live, ask at the Management Office if they know of any apartments for rent or if they can recommend an Agent. Sometimes apartments for rent can be found on Condominium Notice Boards.
2. Once you are in contact with a property agent, let them know your budget and requirements and which part of the city you wish to live. Agents commonly work together so if your agent doesn’t have something suitable in the area you have chosen, he/she can easily contact other agents.
3. After you have found a place you like, negotiate the asking rent. Today there is a big oversupply of available accommodation and landlords are more desperate than before to find a tenant quickly. Leaving a place empty without a tenant for just one month could be losing the landlord more than he would lose by not accepting your offer.
4. Never pay a commission to the Agent. The Agent receives their commission from the landlord, which is usually equivalent to one months rent.
5. Tenancy Agreements are typically for one year or two years. It may be possible to negotiate a shorter length such as six months, but this may push up the rent. If you wish to rent for longer than two years then you could try to use this as a bargaining chip to lower the rent.
6. Look through the apartment or house and let the Agent know if there is anything you are unhappy with. It might be a worn out sofa that needs replacing, or an old fridge or microwave or you might want a new mattress. Perhaps the gas stove only has two rings working instead of four or the bedroom curtains let too light through. Check the taps and flush the toilets to make sure there are no plumbing problems. Also check that all rooms have air-conditioning and that they have recently been serviced. By opening the flap on the front of the air conditioner you can see how dirty it is by checking the blower and the filter. If they are dirty then ask for them to be serviced before you move in.
7. Check for damp walls and ceilings. This kind of problem is more common in lower end apartments and unless the problem is fixed quickly, it may get worse.
8. Check the security of the apartment. How easy would it be for someone to break in either through the front door or balcony or through a window? Some apartment buildings are so badly designed that it is easy to step across from a public area of an apartment building such as a stairwell onto your balcony. If such a security risk is there, ask that a grill be added over the window for security. If there is no grill door at the entrance to the apartment then you could try asking for the landlord to install one.
9. Make sure that all items that are in the apartment when you viewed it have been listed at the back of the Tenancy Agreement.
10. It is standard to pay a security deposit equivalent to two months rent. This deposit should be returned back to you at the completion of your tenancy Agreement, with some deductions for any damages that you may have caused. Also, a Utilities Deposit will be needed to be paid to cover any outstanding bills that you haven’t settled, such as telephone/internet bills, cable TV, water and electricity bills etc. This deposit is commonly equivalent to half a months rent. Keep all your receipts for deposits and rent paid.
11. In Malaysia rent is paid in advance on a monthly basis. It is never paid for up front for the entire tenancy period.
12. The Tenancy Agreement will state on which date of each month the rent should be paid, so try to pay it on time. There will be a clause in the Tenancy Agreement that allows you a little extra time to pay, usually an additional few days or a week. If you pay very late, the landlord may take action such as blocking all the access cards for enter the building or even cutting the water supply.
13. Property Agents often use a standardized Tenancy Agreement, but with clauses that may have been added or modified at the Landlords request. So, read through the Tenancy Agreement very carefully, and take your time. If there are any clauses that you are uncomfortable with then let the Agent know. As a landlord, the kind of clauses that I often modify relate to late payment of rent and extending the Agreement.
14. Servicing airconditioners. Once you have moved into your apartment, you are responsible for servicing the aircons. The Tenancy Agreement will probably state that you need to service them every three months, but every six months is usually fine. You can get the number of an aircon contractor from the Management Office, and servicing usually costs around RM90 – 120 per aircon for a general service, and RM150 – 180 for a full service including chemical washing the aircon unit and the outside compressor. If a problem exists with an aircon unit which cannot be fixed by servicing, then let the landlord know as he should pay for the repair or replacement of the unit.
15. Water Quality. You should run the taps when you visit an apartment to check for water quality. If the building is old and the landlord hasn't changed the water pipes then the water may be red or brownish in colour. You can also install a water filter in the kitchen or even ask the landlord to install a water filter at the water meter before it enters the apartment.
16. Get a Home Contents Insurance Policy. Most insurance companies offer this, and it’s not expensive. For a coverage of up to RM30,000 the premium is usually around RM200 per year.
17. The bills that you most commonly need to pay each month are electricity, water, television, internet and telephone.
18. The bills that you should not pay and which the landlord should pay are DBKL Assessment Bills, Indah Water (Domestic Sewerage Bill), Management Fees and the Fire Insurance Premium.
19. If you wish to extend your stay beyond the completion period of your Tenancy Agreement, there should be a clause in the Agreement that stipulates how many months notice you need to give. Let the landlord know, and if the landlord tries to increase the rent then indicate that if the rent increases you prefer to move out. The landlord may relent and agree not to increase. This is because when a tenant leaves, the landlord needs to fix up the apartment, sometimes repaint it, make a big cleaning, replace some items, and importantly, find another tenant, which might take time and will probably cost him/her a full months rent as commission to an Agent. You should sign an Extension Agreement, which is usually just half a page long with the basic terms of amount of rent, notice period and dates etc. And don't forget to get your stamped original copy of the Tenancy Agreement from the Agent.
20. Try to remain on good terms with your landlord. At the end of the Tenancy Agreement the landlord should return your deposits less any outstanding utility bills and deductions for any damages that you may have caused. A good landlord should not deduct anything for normal wear and tear and shouldn't make deductions for repainting or cleaning the apartment. An unhappy landlord might not be so nice.
21. If you have problems getting back your deposit, you can try to speak with the Agent, but do realize that Agents are usually on the side of the Landlord as it is he/she who pays their commission each time they bring a new tenant, whereas tenants come and go. If you cannot get your deposits back or you feel that the deposit returned is too little then try to speak (nicely) to the landlord. If that fails, then your choices are to either seek legal advice and that could be very costly and time consuming or to let the matter go. Lawyers typically send two or three letters to the Landlord followed by a Court Summons and that is going to take at least six months. Legal action is a last resort and unless the deposits are very large I personally think it is not worth following up due to the stress and cost involved.
22. It is normal for the Landlord to refund the deposit a few days after you have vacated the apartment. He/she will need time to check the cost to repair damages and damaged items and to check on any outstanding bills. It will help if you can give the landlord your latest utility bills shown as being paid. In Malaysia most utility bills can be paid at the Post Office.
23. The Management of the Apartment building will not want to get involved in any disputes between you and your landlord. These are considered as private matters and the Management will try to keep clear of them. The only time Management will get involved is when matters such as leaking or other similar problems occur and then they will contact the landlord.
I have served on three Condominium Management Councils/Owner’s Committees in Kuala Lumpur, as Chairman, Vice Chairman, ordinary Council Member and as an Advisor. I am a property investor, landlord and was a tenant when I first moved to Kuala Lumpur.
If you have any queries feel free to ask. I, or others will try our best to provide you with answers or advice.