Personal Finance

Questions to ask before you rent

I have previously rent with an owner and a real estate agency that is what I expected to be, so I never know that there are a lot of cost-related questions to ask when you are looking for a rental unit.

I paid the cost for trusting things to be “normal” when I try to book a unit with AFZ reality. The hidden cost in the tenancy agreement amount to ~8% of the rent (thankfully I can walk away from renting this place). The default answer by the agent is that it’s a standard clause. However, having rented a few times and exchanging views with friends that rent for years, I know that’s not true, you have to ask before booking if you want to avoid such cost.

Here’s a few things that I pick up along the way and hopefully it will help you with rent decision making.

Why agent loves booking, and there’s always someone looking at this unit?

A booking fee is not refundable. The industry calls it a booking fee, but it’s actually a burn or rental fee. No matter what agent A or agent B tells you, once you place a booking fee, there’s no turning back.

How much does the Tenancy Agreement cost?

Typically it will cost RM350-700, the longer is the rent, the higher is the fee. But this not always standard practice, when I rent directly with the owner, he has a drafted copy, and stamp duty is only about RM100. Please note that higher TA fees do not mean you get a better deal.

How much is the rental deposit?

Going with agent will cost you a minimal 2 months of rental and half a month to utilities. If you rent with the landlord, they might be kind enough to take just a month.

Do you need to pay utilities in advance?

Apart from the utility deposit, if the unit owner paid utilities in advance, they might oddly ask you to pay the sum to “zero” the bill calculation.

What are the utilities fees that you need to cover?

Apart from water and electricity, some tenancy agreement requires you to pay sewage or fees imposed by the property management.

How much maintenance on electrical items you need to do?

If there’s a fridge, washing machines, or multiple units of air-con in the unit, you can be expected to do maintenance every 3-6 months.

How much you need to pay if you did not maintain the electrical items that you don’t use?

Even if you don’t use some of the electrical appliances, you need to show periodic receipts of the appliance maintenance or your deposit will be deducted when you move out.

Who pays the deposit for key cards/ car registration/ residence card?

Some owners only have one of each item, and you need to pay the property management to obtain a copy.

Is there a charge if any of the items are lost/ damaged/ faulty?

Not all owners are happy with typical wear & tear. For example, do you need to pay for the remote control if it’s faulty.

Where is the parking lot?

Parking location can be a hassle especially if you have kids. Learning from experience, when the agent says they don’t know, it’s probably a very bad spot.

How much is the moving-in and out deposit?

Not so much of a cost, but you need to save up to put-in a deposit if you are moving in/out furniture from the place.

How soon can you be evicted if the unit is sold by the landlord?

Typically a tenancy agreement will protect you by giving you the first priority to own the unit if your landlord chooses to sell the unit. But sometimes the clause is not there and you might not be aware that the landlord has sold the unit and you need to move out in less than a week.


My list is just a handful that I have encounter in hope that others won’t be trap-in. In reality, there are so many possibilities and I hope we will have a site that gives a specific comparison between how the agency drafts the tenancy agreement and the cost that is imposed.

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