All property transactions are sizeable when compared with most other decisions.

It follows then that we should give these transactions the extra time and attention that they warrant, but this does not always happen. In many instances it isn’t so much an issue of motivation, but rather not knowing the right questions to ask.

This series deals with key questions we can ask. Knowing the answers to these questions can help to avoid misunderstandings and, in many cases, will save time, money or both.

The 25 Questions You MUST Ask As A Tenant Renting A Property

With the high costs and the potential happiness of your family at stake, it is natural to be concerned that you are both making a good decision and getting value for money.

The trouble is you may find yourself renting a property whilst starting a new job, moving your family to a new country and enrolling the kids in a new school all at the same time.

Of course it is important to do your homework about any potential property you are considering to rent, and with so many things going on you also have to remember to ask your agent the most important questions about the property you are considering.

The list below is in no particular order and is a suggested starting point to help identify which questions to ask.

  1. How safe is it?

  2. This question is often the major concern when people first arrive in Macau. They have heard stories about the dangers of living in Asia, and these stories combined with a natural fear of new environments play havoc with a persons mind.

    In terms of crime, you will struggle to find many places safer than Macau. Crimes against the general population are rare, especially those of a violent nature.

    However, crimes do happen occasionally of course, so do take the time do a security check.

    How secure is the external security door ? Is there a security guard or video surveillance system ? Does the front door feel safe to you…. Is there a deadbolt?

    If the apartment is on a low floor is there a cage over the windows ?

    These questions are important not just for your peace of mind, but also if you’re getting renter’s insurance, which you SHOULD do (contact your bank and they will be able to help you with a insurance policy).

  3. Am I getting a good deal?

  4. It’s always a good idea to investigate comparative rates in a building.

    If the apartment is more expensive or much cheaper than other apartments, it’s better to ask “why” before moving in.

    Another factor to look at is how quickly rental rates have gone up or down in the building.

    If you like the building and rents have been increasing, you might want to consider a lease longer than two years that contains an increase in years three and four.

    By agreeing to a rent increase you can at least have the certainty of staying in the building and apartment you enjoy for the term of the lease.

  5. Can I actually afford this?

  6. Excellent question!

    A generally accepted rule is to spend no more than 35 percent of your after-tax income on housing expenses.

    If take-home pay is MOP $24,000 a month, that's MOP $8,400 for rent and utilities.

    This becomes a major factor as prices rise, and especially if you are also keeping another house overseas.

    People do tend to stretch themselves a little thin and spend more than 35 percent on their housing costs.

    It is of course a personal decision, but remember you still have other living costs to cover such as food and utilities.

  7. Am I paying for a whole lot of amenities, and will I really use them?

  8. Apartments offer a wide range of amenities to attract occupants.

    The more expensive apartment buildings offer amenities like fitness facilities and pools, whilst other apartments might offer appliances such as washer/dryers and dishwashers in the unit.

    Landlords often have to pay more and therefore charge more for these amenities, so it makes sense for potential tenants to consider carefully whether or not they will make use of them.

  9. How much will it cost me to move in?

  10. When you hear the monthly rent you might need to take a seat and catch your breath, but the move-in fees may in some cases cause permanent heart failure !

    As a standard requirement, you will need the equivalent of four months rent when moving into a new apartment.

    You will be paying for the current month’s rent, and this will either be the ‘pro-rata’ amount if you are moving in midway through the month, or it will be a while month’s rent with the rent due on the moving-in date every month.

    You will also need to pay a refundable security deposit usually equal to two months rent that is held by the landlord or representative in case of damages or breakages in the apartment.

    Finally you will also be required to pay an Agency Fee / Finders Fee if you are using an agent to find an apartment, and this is usually equal to one month’s rent.

    A word of caution here on utilities: Some things may be covered in the rent, others not. Ask if cable TV and trash removal are covered ? The tenants usually pay on a consumption basis for utilities.

    Part 2 - The Most Important Questions To Ask

    If you have not seen the earlier articles on this subject, here is a brief introduction to the series. Of course you can find the articles online on the Macau Daily Times website.

    With the high costs and the potential happiness of your family at stake, it is natural to be concerned that you are both making a good decision and getting value for money

    The trouble is you may find yourself renting a property whilst starting a new job, moving your family to a new country and enrolling the kids in a new school all at the same time.

    Of course it is important to do your homework about any potential property you are considering to rent, and with so many things going on you also have to remember to ask your agent the most important questions about the property you are considering.

    The list below is in no particular order, and is intended as a starting point to help identify which questions to ask.

    This week we start with……….

  11. How’s the water pressure?

  12. Be sure to test the water system in the apartment.

    There is nothing more miserable than a weak shower day after day. Check the water pressure and find out how long you have to wait for the water to heat up or for before the water turns cold etc.

    Confirm that the plumbing works by flushing toilets, and check for problems with clogged drains.

    Small point perhaps, but they will irritate the hell out of you when you live there.

  13. How’s the air conditioning?

  14. Make sure the air conditioning works, and do ask if the air cons are ‘reverse cycle’ to provide heat in the winter.

    Whilst the cold weather does not usually last very long, the humidity makes sure that it feels like the North Pole, and the properties are not usually built with adequate insulation for the winter.

    If you like to cook at home, we also suggest checking the ventilation in the kitchen.

    This is also a good time to ask about the average utility bills from the previous occupant.

  15. How many bathrooms are there and how do I access them?

  16. Does the apartment only have one bathroom? If so, where is it located?

    When the apartment is designed so that the bathroom is only accessible via the bedroom, then remember your guests will need to go through your bedroom to use it.

    Again, a seemingly trivial point that can easily be overlooked, but becomes a major issue if you have a guest staying.

  17. Who are my neighbors?

  18. It’s always a good idea to get a sense of the people with whom you will be sharing a building and of course a floor and lobby.

    If you know someone in the building, ask them about the tenants in general. If you are able to find out how long the neighbours have been living there and whether or not there has been high turnover of occupants.

    It’s also a good idea to find out how thin or thick the walls and floors are, and whether you will be able to hear your neighbours above, below, or around you.

    Finally, if the building shares a space above a restaurant, be aware of the smells, noise and closing time of the establishment.

  19. How do I get to work? Is there parking, or is a bus stop nearby?

  20. Will you need a car to get around?

    This is a major issue in Macau today, and will add a large amount to the cost if living.

    In addition to rent, you’ll also have to pay for parking, fuel, insurance, and maintenance. This will have to be balanced with option of renting a central apartment that allows the convenience of being able to walk everywhere.

    Some buildings have one parking spot assigned to your rental unit. This is convenient, but where does your friend park when he visits? How about when you invite three friends over, each with their own car that needs to be parked?

    It’s a major problem in Macau and not one that getting any easier. It will deserve careful thought on your side.

    Part 3 - The Most Important Questions To Ask

    If you have not seen the earlier articles on this subject, here is a brief introduction to the series. Of course you can find the articles online on the Macau Daily Times website.

    With the high costs and the potential happiness of your family at stake, it is natural to be concerned that you are both making a good decision and getting value for money

    The trouble is you may find yourself renting a property whilst starting a new job, moving your family to a new country and enrolling the kids in a new school all at the same time.

    Of course it is important to do your homework about any potential property you are considering to rent, and with so many things going on you also have to remember to ask your agent the most important questions about the property you are considering.

    The list below is in no particular order, and is intended as a starting point to help identify which questions to ask.

    This week we start with……….

  21. Will I get good cellphone reception/WiFi connectivity?

  22. What is the strength of signal you get in the apartment?

    It might pay to know where the dead spots are in the apartment before you sign a lease in case you have to consider going ‘old-school’ and getting a landline installed.

    For wi-fi, the thickness of the walls and strength of the signal will determine whether you can get wireless connectivity in the apartment with one router.

    If not, you might need to get additional equipment which can be both frustrating and expensive.

    The connection speeds vary tremendously dependent on the type of service available. Some of the older low-rise buildings do not have a high speed connections, whilst most of the newly built high-rises may offer the high speed service as a service or an option.

  23. What do you do if something goes wrong in the apartment?

  24. The procedure for getting things fixed should be fully documented in the lease, and if not it's certainly worth asking about.

    Some buildings have on-site building management company on-site, and they will be able to recommend someone when the faucet leaks.

    Some landlords hire a property management or administration company to assist with maintenance, usually during business hours.

    In some cases the landlord might ask you to call him directly, in which case you may have to ask a friend or colleague that speaks Cantonese to liaiase with the owner on your behalf.

  25. How do you handle emergency repairs?

  26. No one wants to deal with a burst pipe at midnight on a Tuesday, but it’s a repair that has to be handled ASAP.

    You need to know how the owner wants you to respond in an genuine emergency: Fixing a running toilet on your own because it was driving you nuts and the manager didn't respond quickly enough may leave you stuck with the bill.

    Before choosing an apartment it’s important to know how all kinds of repairs are handled as mentioned in point 13, but particularly the emergencies.

  27. Can I paint?

  28. You may assume the answer is "yes, of course!" because you think "This is MY apartment!"

    But you'd be wrong. Most leases stipulate that when you move out, the apartment must be restored to the same condition you got it in.

    If you painted the walls purple, you could be expected to repaint them to their original boring beige. And covering over purple paint isn't such an easy task.

    Some landlords have a clause in the lease that says written permission is required before painting or decorating.

    Putting up pictures, driving nails into the walls to hang artwork, all things that might need to be pre-approved and/or reversed when you move out.

    Basically, the landlord will accept normal wear-and-tear to occur in the apartment, and everything else is on the tenant.

    Before moving in you may be able to do a walk-through with photos to record the actual condition of the property.

    It is important. Don't forget that damages to the apartment will be deducted from your security deposit. Do you still want deep purple walls?

  29. Can I have a pet?

  30. Many owners simply forbid any cats or dogs.

    Those that DO allow pets usually have a clause to say the apartment must undergo a deep clean upon termination of the agreement, and funds will be withheld to take care of this (a deep clean typically costs around Hk$2,000).

    Check your landlord's policies, and while not all landlords refuse to allow pets, many say they do for financial reasons.

    Dogs can scratch up doors and hardwood floors, and not every pet can handle long hours left alone in an apartment while their human is at work.

    Barking also disturbs neighbours, and accidents can stain carpets, cause hygiene issues and wreck flooring.

    If the landlord and the building management does allow pets, you may be asked to pay an extra pet security deposit. And of course pet owners are absolutely expected to clean up after their animals.

    Part 4 - The Most Important Questions To Ask

    If you have not seen the earlier articles on this subject, here is a brief introduction to the series. Of course you can find the articles online on the Macau Daily Times website.

    With the high costs and the potential happiness of your family at stake, it is natural to be concerned that you are both making a good decision and getting value for money

    The trouble is you may find yourself renting a property whilst starting a new job, moving your family to a new country and enrolling the kids in a new school all at the same time.

    Of course it is important to do your homework about any potential property you are considering to rent, and with so many things going on you also have to remember to ask your agent the most important questions about the property you are considering.

    The list below is in no particular order, and is intended as a starting point to help identify which questions to ask.

    This week we start with……….

  31. Where's the exit?

  32. Once you sign a lease, you are committed until the initial term of the lease is up, after which there is an early termination clause.

    A lease term in Macau is usually two years unless its been negotiated for a different time frame, and most leases allow tenants to give notice after an initial term of 12 months.

    So what happens if six months into your 2 year lease you are offered a new and wonderful opportunity 3,000 miles away?

    Before signing, find out the penalties for breaking the lease.

    Also, remember that verbal agreements aren't the same as written ones, and when the owner assures you "it won't be a problem" to break your lease with 30-days written notice, ask him to put it in writing.

    Breaking a lease is serious business that could adversely impact you down the road. Not only will you likely forfeit your security deposit and any monies the landlord holds in your name, but you will also burn a bridge for future rental references.

    Smart prospective tenants who know their careers might take them elsewhere negotiate an exit clause in case of a job transfer. But be warned, landlords aren't always willing to agree to this,

  33. Are there rules for rubbish disposal, recycling and common areas ?

  34. Yes indeed there are !

    In some buildings, only certain household-generated trash can be put in the common garbage disposal.

    Some buildings say you can't put out garbage until 6 p.m. on the night before collection.

    Some buildings require you to recycle, separating glass and plastic from food waste.

    Don't forget to ask about the waste disposal details and requirements of the building to help avoid any potentially embarrassing incidents.

  35. Under what circumstance would you enter my apartment without notice?

  36. As a tenant, you may not own the apartment but that doesn't mean that the owner or their representatives should be able to enter your home anytime they like.

    In most instances an owner or representative should give you notice prior to entering your apartment, and any legit property agency will be very up front about what circumstances would warrant them entering an apartment.

  37. How do you handle showing the apartment before I move out?

  38. Showing the apartment to potential tenants is one of the instances when the property agent may ask your permission to enter the apartment.

    You can ask the agent about this when you are first shown around the building, and it’s important to ask exactly how they’ll handle showing your apartment.

  39. How far in advance do I need to give notice before moving out?

  40. In many instances you’ll have to give notice well in advance of moving out.

    If not, your lease could automatically renew and you could lose your security deposit when you try to cancel the agreement.

    Part 5 - The Most Important Questions To Ask

    If you have not seen the earlier articles on this subject, here is a brief introduction to the series. Of course you can find the articles online on the Macau Daily Times website.

    With the high costs and the potential happiness of your family at stake, it is natural to be concerned that you are both making a good decision and getting value for money.

    The trouble is you may find yourself renting a property whilst starting a new job, moving your family to a new country and enrolling the kids in a new school all at the same time.

    Of course it is important to do your homework about any potential property you are considering to rent, and with so many things going on you also have to remember to ask your agent the most important questions about the property you are considering.

    The list below is in no particular order, and is intended as a starting point to help identify which questions to ask.

  41. Can I sublet the apartment?

  42. In the event that you need to move out before your lease is up subletting may be the only way to avoid breaking it.

    However, many owners are staunchly against subletting, and it could be a serious breach of contract.

    If you are given permission to sub-let the property, it must be specifically added into the Tenancy Agreement and of course in writing.

  43. Can I make changes to the apartment and will there be costs involved?

  44. Adding a personal touch to an apartment may end up being quite costly if you don't have permission to do so.

    Many owners don’t mind as long as you put things back the way they were when you moved in, but they are wary of tenants who claim to have ‘improved’ the apartment by leaving brightly colored walls and makeshift furniture.

  45. Are there plans to make any updates to the apartment complex?

  46. This is an important question for two reasons;

    Firstly, if improvements are being made then you may have to deal with construction noise and disruption and secondly;

    Updates could add to the amenities, enjoyment and appeal of your apartment.

  47. Under what circumstances would my security deposit not be refunded?

  48. Returning the apartment without giving it a thorough clean could be enough for the property manager to withhold a portion of your security deposit.

    A good rule of thumb is that with the exception of normal wear and tear, an apartment should be left the way it was when you moved in if you want to receive the full deposit back.

  49. How long am I expected to wait before my security deposit refund is given back to me ?

  50. Getting back a two-month security deposit is a big factor for most tenants.

    Bearing in mind that you will move to another apartment and will need to find two-months security deposit for that apartment, you will want to get the deposit back as quickly as possible.

    In most instances it should be paid back within 7 working days, but whatever is agreed verbally should be clearly stated in the Tenancy Agreement.