How To Rent An Apartment In Malaysia--Everything You Need To Know

July 19, 2010, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Here's everything you need to know to find a long-term rental as a foreigner in Malaysia.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader, 

"It's always a good idea to rent first when making a move overseas," writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, "especially in a place like Malaysia, which is so culturally and ethnically diverse. In a place offering so many options, you want to spend time on the ground before making a determination as to the right location for you. 

"From the hustle of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the laid-back state capitals on the island of Borneo...from the historic charms of Georgetown, Melaka, and Ipoh to the idyllic beach communities of Cherating, Kuantan, Teregganu, and Mersing, each region of this country comes with its own way of life. You should try one or more on for size before thinking about investing in a home of your own in this country.

"The good news is that it's easy for a foreigner to find a rental in Malaysia. English-language newspapers, such asThe Star and the New Straits Times, have large classified sections with many rental listings. As English is widely spoken throughout the country, it's possible for English-speaking foreigners (like you) to shop for a rental this way on your own (unlike in Spanish-speaking countries, for example). You can call property owners directly and make appointments to look at anything you find in the classifieds that interests you. 

"Good websites to consult include www.iproperty.com.my,www.fullhouse.com.mywww.penangproperties.com, andhttp://malaysia.craigslist.org

"While it is quite possible to find fine a rental this way (searching the classifieds, both in print and online), I have found that, in this country, working with a property agent has its advantages. Agents are paid by the property owner and not the lessee, meaning their services are free to you. And their negotiating skills--important in this country for getting a good deal--can make their services invaluable. 

"In addition, your Malaysian property agent will have a much better understanding of the culture and of the nuances of the market than you could ever hope to have. A good agent--that is, one who is not affiliated with a specific development project and who makes an effort to show you only places that meet your criteria--can take a lot of the hassle out of your finding-a-rental experience. 

"Almost all long-term rental landlords will ask for a lease, typically for a minimum of six months; most prefer one or two years. If you are willing to commit for six months only, you narrow your choices, and your rent will likely be a bit higher. 

"As you'd expect, rentals cost more in the cities and less in most smaller towns, with Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru being the most expensive locations. That said, very affordable rentals can be found even in these two areas. 

"Rentals can come fully furnished, partially furnished, or unfurnished. Typically, fully furnished places include all household items, including vacuum cleaners, televisions, DVD players, pots and pans, plates, silverware, linens, towels, wall hangings, etc. They sometimes advertise, 'All you need is your suitcase,' and this can be the case. 

"Partially furnished places include all major household furnishings--sofas and chairs, dining room sets, large kitchen appliances, washing machines, beds, dressers, and so on, but you'll need to provide your own household items.

"Unfurnished apartments come with large kitchen appliances (stove and refrigerator) and air-conditioning but little else. 

"Few places come with an oven, as it isn't an appliance that most Malaysians ever use. 

"Fully furnished apartments, of course, rent for more money than unfurnished ones. 

"Rental agreements generally require the first and last months' rent payable in advance and a utility deposit equal to six months or one year's worth of gas, electric, and water. As most expats choose to keep their utilities in the landlord's name to avoid having to pay large 'foreigner deposits,' this utility deposit saves a considerable out-of-pocket expense. The deposit is refunded within 30 days of vacating the property, often sooner. 

"In addition, a stamp duty is due upon execution of a lease. This non-refundable tax is charged to the tenant based on the government's fixed price of the cost of the rental. The stamp duty generally amounts to US$100 to US$200. Either the landlord or the agent will take the signed lease to an official who will register and notarize the document. Then you and the landlord each will receive a notarized copy. Leases are written in English. 

"Here are a few tips to keep in mind when renting in this country. If you use an agent (as I recommend), make sure he is not affiliated with a specific development project. 

"Visit any property you're interested in at night. Your would-be new neighborhood may be nice and quiet by day but alive with the sounds of karaoke or nightclub partying by night. 

"If you rent a condominium, pay attention to security and maintenance of the grounds and common areas. Ask current residents what their experiences have been. 

"If you plan to rely on public transportation, be certain that bus or train access is within a reasonable distance. Note, for example, that not all bus stops are for public buses. An agent might point to a bus stop nearby without pointing out that only school buses stop there! 

"In urban areas, there are often more vacancies right now that there are renters. Don't be reluctant to try to negotiate on price. Keep in mind, though, that negotiations should be friendly, not adversarial. Also note that, if a price is agreed upon, you are expected to rent the unit. Never haggle successfully and then back out of the deal. 

"Because it's a renter's market right now, you can also ask for certain household items to be included in the price. Maybe ask the landlord of a partially furnished place to include a television or a microwave, for example. Remember that you'll have more bargaining power if you're signing a lease for at least one year. 

"If you pay a deposit--to hold a unit or as a security deposit--get a receipt. 

"Finally, have the landlord show you proof that he or she is the actual owner of the property. A good agent will insist on this. If, though, you're searching on your own, without an agent, you'll have to make the request yourself. Cases of this kind of fraud are rare, but they do occur." 

Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:
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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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