Moving to a new country often comes hand in hand with an almost never ending ‘to do list’ and an immeasurable amount of stress. Where you live and what kind of landlord you are going to have is no doubt one of the most stressful aspects of the whole process.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of tenants losing their security deposits for dubious reasons, shoddy repair work and landlords that do not respect their tenants’ privacy, and of course there is the fact that each country may have different definitions of ‘what’s acceptable’.
The good news is, the ‘horror story’ situations tend to be rare, and we’ve been doing this long enough to have a good idea of how often issues arise. As a tenant, you have the power to prevent your landlord from making your situation unpleasant. In fact, there are even ways to turn a bad landlord into a good one, and turn a good landlord into a better one. Here are a few simple tips:
Meet Your Landlord
While it is possible to work with landlords remotely, it is advisable to make an effort to meet your prospective landlord face to face. Personal relationships are a big deal in Vietnam and landlords like to meet prospective tenants. If you are moving with a family, make the whole family available to meet your new landlord.
While the search for a new house can be tiring always try to put on a smile and engage with your new landlord. Friendly gestures such as picking up the tab if you meet for coffee can go a long way in establishing a long term positive relationship. This small investment can pay off in a big way down the road.
If you are planning on staying for more than a year, adding an extra six months or another year to your lease agreement can help persuade the property owner to make more significant renovations to the property if desired. Adding length to the lease term can also lead the landlord to invest in new furniture, lower the monthly rent, and even throw in other maintenance services.
Another good way to establish a positive relationship is to negotiate exactly what repairs you expect them to make to the property both before and during your tenancy. Landlords everywhere dream of a simple life where nothing in their properties break or need repair. The reality as we all know is quite the opposite. That being said, the willingness of the tenant to make small, minor repairs on their own definitely goes a long way in your negotiations prior to moving in.
Vietnamese in general are extremely receptive to kind gestures and nearly always make sure to return the favor. Give your landlord a small gift to thank him or her for completing all of the required repairs and improvements on time. Some good gift ideas are souvenirs from your own country, a bottle of wine, or a simple fruit basket.
As long as the landlord has made a good effort to make the necessary repairs and upgrades as agreed upon before move in day, try not to let small issues such as a bit of dust in the kitchen counter become a problem. Hourly maid services are cheap and efficient and will have the house totally spotless in a jiffy.
Being a Tenant
Issues between tenants and landlords are generally solved simply by the terms of the lease agreement; however like many things in Vietnam, there tends to be a bit of a “grey area” at times. Lease contracts usually state in fairly direct terms what the landlord is responsible and the majority of landlords are willing to make basic repairs that are caused by regular wear and tear, as well as larger problems such as electrical wiring or the structural integrity of the property.
When choosing a property, always be mindful of the property’s age. Just like anywhere, older properties generally have more repair issues than newer ones. This can sometimes lead to frustration for both the landlord and tenant. While the tenant may feel that all minor repairs must be completed by the landlord, the landlord may quickly grow tired of the repeated requests for minor repairs, while the contract may state that the landlord is indeed responsible, taking care of these repairs on your own can make your life a lot easier. Not only will you keep the landlord happy, but you will also have the ability to choose your repair provider and set appointments based on your schedule. Many landlords are also willing to deduct repair costs from the monthly rent as long as receipts are provided. This method is usually acceptable after a good relationship has been established and there is a certain level of trust achieved.
Renewing Your Lease
This is the point where all that initial effort from your end on relationship building pays some real dividends. As long as a good relationship has been established – it is time to do some serious negotiating! A good tenant is a valuable thing to a landlord and often times they are willing to do more major repairs, install those expensive security cameras, improve furnishings, or even renegotiate rent prices. While not all of your requests may be met, there will certainly be improvements made.