Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Keep it to a minimum

The following is for people looking to settle into a rented apartment, so all the others can come back another time.

Like I’ve said before, the husband and I are in the middle of striking a deal on a new rental place in Borivli. It’s a great house, made more so because the owner has just got it painted. However, there is not much in the house by way of existing shelves or extra cupboard space and the like, so we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Sounds easy, right? It should be, if you get it stated expressly that you will cause minimum intervention in the house by way of poking holes in the walls and tiles for paintings and cabinets and mirrors. By ‘minimum intervention’, the owners generally mean carrying out any new modification in such a way that the house can be restored at the least possible cost and effort, in the shortest time possible.

For holes in the walls, clever use of white cement is all that is generally needed. Do not puncture the walls in such a way that the paint cracks, because THAT repair will be charged to you. Also, do not go overboard putting up paintings and the like, because you will only end up defacing a lot of surfaces, which will also be charged to you. The trick is, to convince the home owner, preferably through a written note, of the stuff you will need to put as a point of necessity, such as storage shelves in the kitchen and a mirror above the wash basin.

To know exactly what you will have to do, take a clipboard and note down all the things that are not already fitted in the flat. For instance, overhead cabinets in the kitchen, or a wall mirror in the bedroom or a water geyser in the bathroom. Many houses we saw recently had no inlets or outlets provided for the washing machine and water filter, so you might consider modifying your kitchen sink tap to a two-way one. Make an itinerary and approach the owner with the same, asking for permission to make the necessary changes. Do not EVER do anything without the owner's permission. Luckily, my husband and I readily got permission from this particular home owner, but others are not always this fortunate. When we struck our first deal, the home owner expressly forbade us from making ANY changes to the house, even to drive one nail in any wall. In fact, he wanted all existing holes to be retained and actually made a list of the house in the condition he was handing it to us, room by room, which both parties signed.

In such a case, go one up. Take a camera with you when the time comes to draw up such a list, and actually make a note of such things as ‘hole in the door frame next to the safety latch’. Sounds comical? It is, but secure yourself. Make a note of every hole, crack in the paint, peeling roof in the toilet, scratch or palm print, broken appliances/ fixtures, nails driven in the wall and not removed, etc, and take photographs of each room as documentary evidence. That way, any claims made at the time of settling your deposit that “you damaged this” and “you changed that” will not arise. Also, if there are any pressing concerns, such as a portion of the paint consistently collapsing in any part of the house through external leakages and such, take pictures and notify the owner immediately.

For your sake and the owners’, try and curb your fanciful urges to have water fountains and millions of plants in every surface in a rented place. Ultimately, it pays to remember that it is not your house, though you are paying to stay there and are maintaining it daily. You’ll have to be doubly careful when it comes to cleaning and reducing damage, but that’s part of the package.

When it’s time to restore, try these tricks:
- Generally, you’ll make an agreement for 11 months. During that time, there is every likelihood of the flush conking off or the front door latch not cooperating. The fans might not work like they used to and the geyser switch may bust a spring. Get these repaired before the owner comes for the final inspection.
- If you can’t do it yourself, get a carpenter to remove your pelmets/ curtain rods, cabinets for you. Also get him to plug any holes you may have put in the walls with white cement.
- Tighten all nuts/screws on fixtures, switchboards, door latches before the final inspection.
- It is completely okay to take away light bulbs or other things you may have installed for your use if they were not provided by the owner.
- Turn off gas mains before you leave.
- It is good manners to clean the house one last time before you go. That includes cleaning the bathroom, toilets, kitchen surfaces, and in corners.
- When the house is finally vacated, the paint will look slightly shabby but that is known as ‘reasonable wear and tear’. Contest any claims that the paint looks a year older because of you.

Next: Inking the agreement copy.