What Do I Need to Rent a House for the First Time in South Africa?

When looking for your first home, things can get overwhelming. Not only are you trying to find a place to start a new chapter, and probably buying a whole house full of furniture, but you’ve also got to navigate real estate agents and all the forms.

It may all seem very daunting, but with a bit of organisation (and maybe a little help from friends or family), you’ll have the keys to your first home in no time. Here’s a basic breakdown to help you get started.

What Do I Need to Rent a Home?

Before you even start looking for your dream home, it’s best that you have the basic things ready and prepared:

  • A steady income to pay the rent
  • A deposit (typically 2 – 3 times the monthly rent)
  • A clean credit record (or a cosigner/more money for the deposit if asked)

Planning Your Budget

The first thing you need to do is figure out your budget. How much can you afford to spend on rent each month? Once you have a number in mind, start looking for properties that fit your budget.

Keep in mind what you need from the home – a garden? Number of bedrooms? Garage/parking? And then look at the average rental fees are for this type of home in the area you’re looking. If you work from home, try looking at a bigger radius, sometimes homes just outside of the popular areas are much cheaper.

It’s also good to note that most estate agencies look for tenants who can show they earn three times the rent. This is calculated in total, though, so you can combine the incomes of yourself and spouse, partner, or roommates. You can also add in any income you make from a side hustle — as long as you have records of this (bank statements work best).

Note: When looking at your budget, remember you will probably be paying separately for electricity and water.

Read more: How to make a little extra money online

Documents You’ll Be Asked For

Next, you’ll need to gather some documents. Most landlords will require proof of income, so be sure to have your pay slips and banks statements ready.

You may also need a guarantor if you don’t have a solid income history. Most landlords and agencies ask for three months’ worth of records.

You will also need to fill out an application, this asks for:

  • Personal details
  • Your net income
  • Employer details
  • Your affordability (income minus expenses)
  • References from previous landlords – this is a scary one for first-time renters, but if you have been staying with roommates or your parents, you can put their details down.

The application process will then typically involve a credit check and criminal check.

Tips For Home-Hunting

  • Search multiple sites – Property24 is a common one, but Private Property, Facebook, and even Gumtree can be helpful.
  • Don’t ever pay money before you see the house. There are too many scams out there, you need to be as careful as possible.
  • If you have pets, bring this up before you even make time to see the property – sadly, many landlords and body corporates are banning pets, and you don’t want to have a signed lease and nowhere to take your pets.
  • Check the contract thoroughly before signing anything. If there are any clauses you’re not comfortable with, speak up!
  • And finally, enjoy the process! This is a big step, and you should be proud of yourself for taking it. Just remember to take your time, do your research, and ask for help when you need it.

Finding Pet-Friendly Properties to Rent in South Africa

If you have pets, the search for a rental property can be even more daunting. Here are some tips to help you find that perfect pet-friendly home:

  • Be prepared to pay a bit more for your rental – many landlords charge a pet deposit or an extra monthly fee for tenants with pets.
  • Start your search early – the sooner you start looking, the better your chances of finding a place that allows pets.
  • Get references from your previous landlords – if you have been a responsible pet owner in the past, this can go a long way in convincing a new landlord to allow your pet.
  • Look for private landlords – smaller, independently-owned properties are more likely to be pet-friendly than large apartment complexes or corporate rentals.
  • Be prepared to move outside of the city – sometimes, you may have to look a bit further out to find a place that allows pets.
  • Check the contract thoroughly – make sure that any pet-related clauses are fair and reasonable before you sign anything.
  • When searching online, use keywords like “pet friendly,” “dogs allowed,” or “cats allowed” to narrow down your options.
  • Remember, even if a rental property is advertised as being pet-friendly, there may still be a limitation on WHAT kind of pet you can have. Some places allow only small dogs, others won’t allow cats at all.
  • Call ahead to the landlord or estate agent to inquire about their pet policy before making a viewing appointment.
  • If you’re considering a unit in a complex, find out if there are any restrictions on pets and whether there is a designated area for walking them.
  • And finally, remember to be a responsible pet owner. Pick up after your pet, keep them from barking excessively, and don’t allow them to damage the property in any way. If you do all of these things, you’ll be much more likely to find a pet-friendly rental that you can call home.

Signing the Lease!

Once you’ve found a place to rent and been approved by the landlord, you’ll need to sign a lease. This is a legally binding agreement between you and the landlord, so be sure to read it carefully before you sign.

The lease will outline things like how long you’re renting for, how much rent you’ll pay, and what the consequences are if you break the lease.

Make a “Damages” List

This list should be done as you move into your home, and it should include anything that is already damaged in the house. Take photos of any stains on the carpets, scratches on the walls, or anything else that is less than perfect.

The reason you want to do this is so that you’re not held responsible for these damages when you move out. Be sure to keep a copy of this list somewhere safe, and give a copy to your landlord as well.

Living in Your Rented Home

After you’ve signed the lease and moved in, it’s important to remember that you’re now responsible for taking care of the property. This means paying rent on time, and not damaging the property.

Remember, when you’re renting a home, you’re not just paying for a place to live. You’re also responsible for taking care of the property and being a good tenant. If you take good care of the property and are a good tenant, you shouldn’t have any problems.

But if you don’t, the landlord may have grounds to evict you. Eviction can be a long and complicated process, so it’s best to avoid it if at all possible.

Paying Your Rent

Rent is typically paid monthly, on the first of the month. If you’re not able to pay on time, speak to your landlord as soon as possible – they may be willing to work out a payment plan with you.

If you’re ever in doubt about anything related to your rental property, don’t hesitate to ask your landlord or the estate agency. They’re there to help, and they want you to be happy in your new home.

What if the House Has Problems?

If you move into a rental property and find that there are problems with the house, you should contact the landlord immediately. Depending on how you are renting, this may be done through an estate agent, or direct.

Some things might be up to you to fix (like a lightbulb) but if you aren’t sure, chatting to your agent should clear things right up.

You’re not buying this home, so it’s not your responsibility to fix things like geysers, plumbing issues, and structural damage. That’s what home insurance is for.


Moving into your first rented house is an exciting milestone. By following these steps, you can be sure that you’re doing it the right way.

This is yet another adulting step that can be a little scary, but you’ve got this! Just remember to take your time, do your research, and ask for help when you need it. And soon enough, you’ll be the proud tenant of your first rental property.

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