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How to prepare for subletting your home

Leigh Leigh
Classic style garden by Línea Paisagismo.Claudia Muñoz Classic
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Subletting your home is one of the fastest ways to make some extra money or to take the pressure of paying rent off, especially during summer. In December last year, 1.5 million international visitors arrived in Cape Town alone. 

The country is a goldmine for foreigners escaping the snow, in search of some sun, adventure and safari. This is a huge resource to tap into, providing easy cash with very little effort. What's more is that due to the South African exchange rate, foreigners can afford to spend a bit more on accommodation. Often though, they don't want to blow it all on hotel accommodation or five-star guest houses, which is where you come in.

If you're looking for a long-term tenant to sublet then South Africa is still a fantastic place for this, with many individuals moving around the country for work or coming into the country for long-term holidays and jobs.

While you'll have to be careful about who you choose to open your home up to and do some research into the right pricing, subletting can be the reason you can afford to go overseas next year. 

Check your tenancy agreement allows

Your rental contract or tenancy agreement is the most important part of subletting because if it clearly states that you are not allowed to sublet, you can get into a lot of trouble for doing it and can face the possibility of being kicked out of your home.

If your tenancy agreement specifically states that you aren't allowed to sublet, talk to your landlord about it and see if he or she may be flexible. With accredited websites and systems in place when it comes to renting a home out temporarily, the landlord may be more open to the idea. If he or she is, simply draw up a new tenancy agreement with a new clause that stipulates the agreement around subletting and sign the document on both sides. What is important is that you cannot sublet your home without your landlord's permission.

If your tenancy agreement states that you can sublet, then you have an agreement in writing already and can go ahead. 

Determine which rooms are included

Flairlight Project 1 Oxshott, Tudor House Modern kitchen by Flairlight Designs Ltd Modern
Flairlight Designs Ltd

Flairlight Project 1 Oxshott, Tudor House

Flairlight Designs Ltd

You may not enjoy snuggling up to a stranger on the sofa, so it's important to decide what parts of the house your subletting tenant has access to.

The first question is how long the subletting tenant will be staying. Is it just for a short holiday, or for a few months or for longer?

If it's a short-term rental, many opt to go and stay with friends or family, leaving the renter to access the whole apartment or house. Others make their homes available for when they will already be out of town or travelling overseas. If this is what you are planning to do, ensure that all of your possessions are locked away in a separate bedroom or cupboard, which the renter will not have access to. 

For longer term stays, the important rooms in the house will have to be included such as the actual bedroom and a bathroom. If there is an option for a kitchenette and small living room that can be used privately by the renter, then go this route as it will provide you both with some privacy. However, you may be happy to share the entire house, from the kitchen to the living room so it really is at your discretion which rooms will be available to the subletting tenant. You may make a brand new friend over morning coffee.

Fix a fair price

If all you're offering is a tiny bedroom and a bathroom, it's not fair to fix the price too high. Price depends on size, location and quality.

The easiest way to figure out what to charge is to look closely at what the household expenses are for the rent itself to the cleaning to the WiFi to the DSTV. How much of that will the renter have access to? From here you can work out proportionally what he or she should be paying.

Their length of stay will also play a role—it's easier to charge a bit more for a short-term stay as you're charging per night. Look at what other people are charging per night for similar accommodation on places like AirBnB.

If the subletting tenant is staying for a month or longer, then base the price on the monthly rent and household expenses and what the tenant will be getting out of it.

Draft a rental agreement

A rental agreement is incredibly important and can protect you and your landlord from risk and liability. 

You can download a standard rental agreement off the internet and ask your landlord to double check that he or she is happy with the terms outlined. Google a standard rental agreement for subletting and you'll find that many property companies offer templates that can be downloaded off of their websites.

A better option is to have a professional in the industry draw up a rental agreement for you. This will help you to understand each term and clause and to be fully aware of the legalities around housing a subletting tenant. Speak to a local property or estate agent.

Each time you sublet your apartment or home out, be sure to have the document read and signed by the individual who will be subletting.

Create some house rules

Your house is your home, after all, so creating some house rules will go a long way in ensuring that both you and the subletting tenant feel comfortable and are on the same page.

Once you've decided which rooms the subletting tenant will have access to, it will be easier to determine the house rules. If the tenant has access to the whole house, make sure that you're clear on what the situation is in terms of food, wine, beer, spirits and other consumables stored in the house. If you don't like people feeding your fish without your permission or streaming too many movies via your Wifi, you need to let them know.

If there are quite a few finicky rules or details, write up a list that can be printed into a booklet of sorts. You can include Wifi passwords, emergency numbers and all sorts in this booklet. Place it on the bedside in the subletting tenant's bedroom and go through it with them if need be.

Alternatively, sit down and have a frank discussion with the subletting tenant so that you learn each other's habits and understand what the other one's lifestyle is like. This will make the house rules much clearer going forward.

Prepare the room(s)

If someone is paying to come and shack up with you or make your home theirs for the next little while, you want them to at least feel comfortable and like they are getting value for their money. A few extra touches here will go a long way.

Firstly, clean linen is non-negotiable. Make sure the sheets, bed spread and pillow cases are freshly laundered, using washing powder and a fabric softener. Make the bed up nicely, pulling the sheets and duvet down tightly so that it looks neat and inviting. Sprinkle colourful cushions on the bed to brighten up the room and add a spare blanket for chilly nights.

An adequate space for hanging towels and clothes is also important so make sure you provide some hanging space, cupboard shelves and hooks. A night stand is also a must.

Add some bottles of water, a kettle with tea and coffee and even a bottle of wine to the room to welcome your guests. A vase of fresh flowers or a few candles also go a long way in making a room feel warm, comforting and inviting. 

If you Love Decorating? Do It For A Living.

Advertise room(s)

Oakland Bedroom Collection Country style bedroom by The Cotswold Company Country Wood Wood effect
The Cotswold Company

Oakland Bedroom Collection

The Cotswold Company

Once you have everything ready, it's time to cast the net out and start looking for tenants.

Quality photographs are key in advertising a good room or home so invest a bit of time and effort into this. They don't have be taken by an expert photographer but they should look good. Once you have your photographs, think about what you want to say about the space. Be careful to be accurate in your description—you don't want a potential subletting tenant to be under the wrong impression. Often subletting tenants will come from overseas and won't have a chance to see the house before moving in.

Get some tips from Brazilian interior designers Lider Interiors for a cool portfolio of pictures.

Once you've got your photographs and a description, social media platforms like Facebook are a good idea as you end up with friends of friends coming to stay, rather than random strangers. 

AirBnB is an online platform that has revolutionised the subletting process, where those renting out homes and those staying in homes are rated according to a star system. Reviews are also written up on the site. Set up an online account, upload some photos of the room and a description and wait for the email enquiries to roll in.

Other sites like Gumtree are an option, but be careful of scammers.

Screen applicants

Scammers are unfortunately a part of internet transactions so you need to keep your wits about you. Use accredited sites like AirBnB or make use of a friend's recommendation if possible, staying away from complete strangers. 

If using AirBnB, go through your potential subletting tenant's previous references and ratings. If using a friend's recommendation, ask to get in touch with the renter beforehand or to meet with them. This will give you a chance to have a bit of a meet and greet before opening your house up.

When it comes to other more anonymous platforms, a meet and greet is very important. You need to feel like you can trust the person who's going to have access to your home so make sure to screen them properly. 

Request copies of IDs and passports when the subletting tenant signs the rental agreement too.

Once you've gone through all of the hoops, your home will be ready to take in a new face or too. Embrace the chance to meet some new people, look after your house and enjoy reaping the rewards.

Are you considering subletting your home? Have you had good or bad experiences in the past? Share with us!
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