Here are seven questions that you should always ask a landlord—and the answers you want to hear:
1.What’s included in the rent?
You always want to confirm exactly what you are getting for your money. Typically there are four different kinds of deals in Panama City—turn-key, with everything included except your toothbrush; furnished, which could include furniture, but not items likes linens, towels and kitchenware; unfurnished with appliances; and unfurnished without appliances. If you don’t ask you might be surprised what you find when you move in.
2. Can I decorate the apartment without a penalty?
You want to make the apartment your home. But different owners have different standards about what they will allow. Most contracts allow for renters to decorate, as long as there are no structural changes made to the premises. At end of the lease term everything must be returned to its original condition at move in.
3. Are pets allowed?
A key question for many renters. The good news: Most buildings in Panama are pet friendly. But it is always best to ask about size restrictions, if dogs are permitted. But, in general, Panama City is very welcoming to pets.
4.What’s the guest policy?
Policies on allowing guests can vary building to building. But here is a key point: No building can restrict guest access. Usually guests must register with the building’s concierge and be granted permission by the leaseholder before being allowed access. Many buildings are focused on security and the rules are in place to protect all the residents. Some buildings are stricter than others. It’s important to ask first, so there are no surprises or embarrassing moments.
5. How are emergency repairs handled?
Many buildings have a full staff of concierge and facilities personnel to deal with issues in the common areas. But that doesn’t mean they help inside the apartment. You don’t want to wait for an emergency to find out the landlord’s policy. Many owners don’t live in the city full time. Does the landlord have a contact person for an emergency? A personal representative in the city? This is where the availability of a full-time property management company can be a good sign for you. If the owner has a property manager, you always have somebody to call. It’s always best to get the emergency information before moving into the unit, in order to gauge the landlord’s approach.
6. How often will the rent go up?
Always a tough area and there is never a concrete answer. The payment terms are guaranteed for the length of the lease, but once the lease is up you really don’t know if the rent will go up. No matter what the landlord has said, unless there is specific language in the contract there are no guarantees. Rent increases are largely determined by the landlord and market conditions. But it never hurts to ask and get a sense of the landlord’s philosophy. Some landlord’s will acknowledge their rate increase policies. At time of renewal, an increase can typically range from zero to around 5 percent, but it is solely up to the landlord.
7. How does parking work?
This is an essential question if you own a car. Parking spots are prized possessions in most Panama City neighborhoods. A parking spot can add real value to a rental. It is important to ask up front how many parking spaces come with the unit, if any. The location of the spaces is also crucial, to avoid any confusion. And it is also important to confirm how access is granted to the parking area. Many buildings issue a clicker or a key fob system for access to building common areas, as well as parking. Always ask the landlord if there is a cost involved in obtaining or replacing access devices. Costs generally range from $30 to $50 for a clicker, card or key fob.
Have more questions? Give us a call at +507 8265991 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eddie Montes is the head of Property Management for Punta Pacifica Realty, a Panama real estate agency focused on Punta Pacifica, the exclusive neighborhood of 18 towers perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.