Renew or move? What tenants need to know

Whenever your lease comes up for renewal, it is natural to start looking around at other rental properties to see if you could perhaps find somewhere more spacious, more secure, with better amenities or closer to work for the same or less rent.

“Rental negotiations are also always uncomfortable for landlord and tenant, and it may just feel easier to move on and start afresh with a new landlord at the rental you are prepared to pay,” says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

“However, before you hurry to hand in your notice, there are several other factors you need to consider, the first being that moving itself is costly and very disruptive. From security deposits to buying moving supplies to hiring movers or even a trailer and perhaps taking time off work to pack and unpack, it all adds up.”

And, he says, while many tenants count on getting their full deposit back to put towards the next deposit, you may not get a 100% refund, even if you’ve taken great care of your current home.

“What is more, you will probably have to wait a couple of weeks while the landlord gives the letting agent permission for the money to be released, so you probably won’t be able to use that money to secure your new place.”

Secondly, says Kotzé, it’s not only about the rent. “If you currently live in a secure and well-run complex or community with friendly neighbours, a great caretaker and good amenities, that counts for a lot – and there’s really no guarantee that things will be the same if you move somewhere else.

“Having shops, a gym and your favourite coffee shop all within walking distance is also a big plus.

“Similarly, if you have a good landlord who you get along with and who responds promptly when things need repairing or replacing, it’s a risk to leave and go somewhere else. You have no way of knowing how your next landlord will react.”

The third thing to consider, he says, is that most landlords would rather keep an existing tenant than insist on a hefty rent increase – especially if you are the sort of tenant who always pays on time and takes care of the property.

“If you leave, it will cost your landlord a lot to prepare the property for a new tenant, advertise it and screen potential tenants. This puts you in a strong negotiating position, so you should not hesitate to ask for a smaller rental increase, free access to complex amenities or better lease terms.

“At worst, your landlord can refuse your requests but at best, he will agree in order to hang on to you as a tenant – and you will save more than you would have gained by moving.”