You can never be too careful when it comes to your rental contract. While there are plenty of wonderful, fair simsars (landlords) out there, there are also plenty rotten apples. Issues foreign tenants have experienced include: sudden rent hikes (either designed to squeeze them for a few more pounds or to force them out to make room for a tenant who is willing to pay higher rent), premature terminations of leases (to make room for a landlord’s family members!) and nigh-irretrievable security deposits.
Make sure your contract is clear on the terms of the lease (length, conditions for renewal, monthly rent). Insist that once these items are finalized, they are non-negotiable. You may find it helpful to have an Egyptian friend (or at least an expat friend who speaks solid Arabic) with you during this process.
You should also do your best to have the landlord specify what repairs (if any) he is willing to cover, and whether he is willing to reimburse you for some or all of certain improvements to the property (e.g. rewiring, plumbing repairs, resurfacing floors, purchasing new furniture, installation of a wired or wireless internet connection). The response will vary from landlord to landlord, but you will find that a little extra effort is often rewarded.
Remember to inquire about trash collection and visitor policies. Someone usually comes to collect the trash in all but the poorest buildings, though the frequency may vary. Some landlords are also quiet skittish about single male tenants hosting single female visitors, and vice versa, so you should also try to find out hosting guests of the opposite sex will be an issue.
Handling problems with landlords
If you do run into a situation where your landlord cheats you, steals from you, or attempts to unfairly evict you, your best bet is to threaten to report him to the police. The prospect of police intervention will terrify a good number of landlords (the Egyptian police have an unfortunate reputation for using excessive force), and may encourage more reasonable behaviour in and of itself.
You may, however, encounter someone who is well-connected with the local authorities, and in this case there will not be a whole lot you can do. If you have lost property or are being evicted against the terms of your lease, you should still try and file a police report. Whether the authorities will take any action will depend largely on the strength of your rental contract and the nature of their relationship to your landlord.
If you start to feel trapped in a lease with an overbearing landlord, opt out sooner rather than later, even if it means losing a security deposit. Know from the outset that a bad situation will probably not improve over time.