Practical Leasing Tips from an Expat: How to Look for Rental Without an Agent

IPS Founder and Managing Director, David Murphy, shares his insights on how to look for an apartment or condominium for rent in Cambodia cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Before setting up his own real estate company, Murphy was also a rental seeker and a tenant himself.

UPDATED on Feb. 3, 2023

Searching for a Home in Phnom Penh

Whether you’re a resident or a new arrival in Phnom Penh, renting a property can be quite daunting. The following tips will make your rental search quicker and easier.

Acquaint yourself with the new city

Familiarize yourself with the different areas in Phnom Penh and pinpoint where you want to live. Hire a tuk-tuk for a day or two and get to know the city. Determine how long you are happy to spend travelling to and from work each day and ask yourself the question – is this the area I would like to live in? Within a couple of days, you will have your preferred Sangkat (commune) or Khan (district) locked in.

List down your needs

Decide on your requirements: what type of property are you looking for, what amenities you need to be close to, what furniture needs to be included with the property rental?

Re-assess your budget

Determine your budget and stick to it. Some landlords in Phnom Penh are great at taking your budget, doubling it and then showing you properties in this price range. Don’t let it happen – keep your rental spend at a comfortable level.

It’s time to search for your home!

Once you have identified the preferred location, confirmed your requirements and locked in the budget, it’s time to start finding the right home for you!

A great way to start is by checking available listings online via websites, flicking through the local newspapers, or taking a drive around your preferred area and have a look at any ‘for rent’ signages.

Want to skip searching and immediately receive options? Simply submit your preferences and we’ll direct you to our leasing agent.

Negotiating with a Local Landlord

So you’ve found your dream home and it’s time to work out the finer details with the owner.

Landlords in Cambodia are generally open to spending money on minimal improvements or purchasing small appliances. Draw up a wish list of changes you require and go through it with your landlord. In most cases, the landlord will seriously consider items that add or retain value to the property including re-painting, installation of additional air-con units and purchasing of basic furniture.

However, landlords are mostly reluctant for special requests like TV, washing machine and dryer, and other large appliances unless the tenant is willing to shoulder the costs. Get a feel of your landlord and be sure not to overplay your hand. Find the middle ground as early as negotiating period.

Dealing with local landlords can be challenging especially for a first-time renter or an expat since most locals cannot speak English. By engaging with our agents, negotiating will be off your shoulder.

Signing a Lease Agreement

When committing to a property rental in Cambodia real estate, like anywhere else, you will be required to sign a lease which becomes a binding document detailing the arrangement between Landlord and Tenant. Hence, it’s very important to get the content of the lease right.

Property leases in Cambodia have little uniformity. Individual owners and agents all have their own versions of a standard lease which they update dependent on the properties particulars. These are the four key points in lease agreement that you need to carefully indicate or look at as a renter:

Payment arrangements

Payment arrangements including the method of payment should be clearly stated, the vast majority of landlords request rental payments in cash and paid one month in advance. You need to ensure that these payments are accompanied with a signed receipt from the landlord and that this requirement is stated in the lease.

Termination clauses

Termination clauses generally relate to the impact of early termination by the Lessee. The majority of leases state that termination by the Lessee will result in the deposit being forfeit to the owner. Discuss with the owner and add in a clause stating that if the lease is terminated early due to unforeseen events and a minimum one month notice is provided then deposit will be returned. Easier said than done but many NGOs and Diplomatic organizations require this clause, why not you.

Tax payment

A landlord recently presented one of our clients with a lease stating in addition to rental payments the client would be required to pay VAT and property tax, these taxes apply dependent on the landlord’s ownership structure and should not be levied at the Lessee. Ensure the lease states that any taxes relating to the property are borne by the landlord. Confirm utility charges such as water (m3 or charge per person per month), electricity (per kw), cable TV and Garbage collection. Ensure these charges are clearly stated in the lease to avoid any confusion.

Utility charges and inventory

As most rental properties in Cambodia are furnished it is imperative an inventory list is an appendix to the lease. Review the list, comment on the condition of items and have the landlord counter sign.

Finally take the time to review each point in the lease, discuss with the owner to ensure both parties understand the impact and intent of each clause and sign only when mutual agreement is reached.

Still confused? Get an expert to explain and walk you through the lease agreement terms with the landlord!

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