Renting in Nairobi requires caution. It is not a thing for the weak. There are so many people out to get you. People who will exploit your indecision and even the slightest evidence that you are unprepared. Most of the below pointers apply to hustlers where proper procedures may at times be flouted. If you are house hunting in Nairobi, here are ten things that could really surly your experience and even lead to loss of money.
1. Researching Poorly
This is the worst mistake anyone can ever do. If you do not research about the prospective area then you are basically going in blind. You will not know what questions to ask. The person you engage with could overstate the price and you would not know because you do not have a baseline. Research will also tell you the hotspots for insecurity. Which means that without research you could be setting yourself up to be robbed blind of everything including that fake English accent that comes out when you walk near a five star hotel.
2. Meeting Online Contacts Alone
If you already do not know that it is unsafe to meet strangers alone then maybe you should not be living by yourself. During your research, you uncovered some gems and pulled a number off the internet make sure to get someone to come with you. Preferably, the scariest looking someone you know. Do not let yourself be walked into alleys. Make sure a third party knows where both you and your friend are at all times. Make sure the contact hears you tell people. Do not bring cash with under any circumstances. This is the era of M-Pesa, use it.
3. Venturing too Far
Where do you go to work? Where do you go to school? Basically, where is it that you go during the day so that you are not sitting around all day? In this town, it is best to have as much money as possible. So do not venture so far from your place that you end up spending more than your rent on commuting. For example, what sense would it make if you lived in Ruiru but worked at Galleria?
4. Paying Agency Fees Upfront
What are you paying for exactly? That person will zig and zag through the buildings then they will buy a new line with your money never to be heard from again. This especially applies to those freelance agents who are not attached to any particular company. At the end of the day, if you have been shown good choices, you can pay half or a smaller portion. Ideal situation has you paying the fees once you find the house you want.
5. Paying for Unseen Property
There are some who actually do this. The minute a person suggests you pay for a house you have not seen, run. Run in the opposite direction and never look back. This is definitely a con. A genuine person would not ask fro money before you have seen the house.
6. Not Demanding Proof of Payment
You pay money to your contact. That is deposit and the rent for the first month. You do not have a receipt. Imagine, you paid cash but that guy gets fired the next morning. How do you prove that indeed you are the new tenant? Even a court of law would not help you get your money back. So many things could go wrong. Always demand a receipt on the spot especially if you have paid cash. Most people are embracing mobile everything so normally you will be asked to pay through the paybill in which case that would be your proof. So, keep the acknowledgement text.
7. Not Documenting Issues before Settling In
There could be a broken tile. There could be a missing window pane. The showerhead could be hanging off its neck. These are things that you should first note in the presence of the caretaker. They are also things that you should demand be fixed. You deserve to live in a place where every shower you take could end in a concussion. You deserve to live in a house where you do not shiver through the night. You are not living in that house for free. If they are not willing to fix things then find a landlord who is and will.
8. Not Visit the Place at least Twice
The first time will be when you are introduced so obviously no one will let you see unsavory things like construction on an additional floor. Try to avoid these especially if you have children. The first time will almost be too perfect. Promise to come back the next day or later with payment and signatures. The second time will be unannounced and you will get a chance to see the place with clearer eyes. You will really be sure that you want to call the place home.
9. Settling for Less
Actually, you may settle for less if the house turns out to be less than the budget. Otherwise, compromise on nothing else. Do not compromise on security. The house may be nice and affordable but if you run the risk of never getting home safe from the stage then is it really worth it? Do not compromise on amenities. Is the house worth carrying 20 L water canisters up three flights of stairs and/or paying 30 shillings of each?
10. Not Following your Instinct
This applies to the entire process. In some cases, it may be nothing but paranoia but in others your hesitation may be your own gut telling to leave. Are you feeling unsure about the agent or whoever is showing you the house? There could be a reason. Does the place feel more like a dungeon and less like a home? It might not be your cup of tea. Listen to your gut.
The gist of all of this is that you should expect the best but prepare for the worst. Keep your eyes open, your ears keen and your guard up. Happy renting!