Renting in KL for expats

One of the biggest headaches for me when I moved to KL was finding the right property. Not only was I new here at the time, the regulatory frameworks were not as sophisticated as the ones in my home country.

Today I share some tips on what to do and what not to do.

1. Screen your agent

Not all real estate agents are made equal. Some scheme to get a quick buck at the expense of your misery but a good one will help you settle everything and ease the process.

It is advisable to ensure that your agent is attached to a licensed real estate agency. Get their agency business card and do all of the necessary checks.

If you’d like to further err on the side of caution, request for referrals from clients in the same area. A good agent would be happy to provide referrals.

2. Never deal in cash

If you are ever asked to pay the deposit in cash, firmly decline. It is already a huge red flag and you should start walking away from the deal. Insist on a money or paper trail, for a licensed real estate company should have proper documentation.

3. Know when to walk away

The red flags tend to show early. A fussy landlord or one who is difficult to negotiate with are usually signs of bad things to come.

Unreliable agents, ridiculous demands or deposit amounts are amongst the many signs you should start walking away.

4. Leave nothing unwritten

A paper trail is your best friend should a dispute occur.

You will generally be asked to sign an Offer Letter before buying or renting a property. This precedes the actual Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) or Tenancy Agreement (TA). During the negotiation period, make a physical note of all the conversations.

Email these discussions and have the counterparty acknowledge them to ensure that any information, promise, or discussion of future arrangements agreed upon is recorded. This will also deter the parties involved from making false claims and reneging on promises.

Always ensure that any promise or future arrangement is included in this offer letter. The offer letter is a legal document and can be used to settle disputes. Make sure you read and understand the SPA or TA before signing it. Ask and clarify details with your agent and/or landlord. With regards to a TA, look out for exit clauses and understand them. Ensure both parties sign before moving in. It is within your rights to request changes in the TA.

Also insist on a receipt with every payment done.

5. Benchmark the price before committing

Always check the average pricing in your area of choice based on whether or not the unit is furnished or unfurnished. If you see a furnished unit going for the same rate as an unfurnished unit on the same floor, it is usually a telltale sign that things are too good to be true.

Feel free to request for more pictures of the unit, and if your agent is unable to do so, or even offer a unit viewing, then forget about it.

When I rented my unit, everything was in order and the unit was fully furnished. However, as the aircon units in my place were very old, they often needed servicing. This is normal as most apartments or condominiums in KL tend to be very old.

Based on a friend’s recommendation for servicing companies, the guys at Dr Air were very reliable and provided on-demand service for aircon servicing in KL, which was quite rare.

Prevention is generally the best cure in any real estate negotiation. Appoint good lawyers, take time to find a reliable agent, demand professionalism, look out for potential problems, and don’t go against your better judgment simply to expedite things. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them and help you ease yourself into renting in KL as an expat.