Maintenance and repairs of a property can become a very contentious issue between landlords and tenants, so be fully aware of your rights and obligations.
This advice comes from Brett Nicholson of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys. “Do not rent or lease a property until both the landlord and tenant have, together, conducted a thorough inspection of the premises,” he advises.
“It is vitally important that all damages, defects, wear and tear, marks and stains are listed and documented accurately, and even photographed, prior to the tenant moving into a let property. Such an inspection ultimately protects both parties against any future damages claims which may arise,” he says.
This list should be attached to the lease agreement, thereby, showing agreement to its contents by both parties.
He says that it has traditionally been the tenant’s responsibility to take care of the internal maintenance of a property but this does not include electrics, plumbing, geysers and wiring as these are the landlord’s responsibilities.
Legally, a landlord must let a dwelling in a condition that is reasonable and fit for the purpose for which it is let, and must keep and maintain it in compliance with all ordinances, health and safety regulations.
However, the landlord is not responsible for any damages that are brought about by the tenant or his or her visitors. Such damages are the tenant’s responsibility and the landlord would be fully entitled to claim back all the costs involved in repairing such damages from the tenant.
“It is, therefore, vitally important - and yet very often overlooked - that towards the end of the lease period both the landlord and tenant must do a further joint inspection of the property to ensure that any new damages are also recorded,” adds Nicholson.
This inspection should be done before the lease expires, as if there are any new defects it allows the landlord the opportunity to withhold the tenant’s initial deposit plus interest and use these funds to pay for the repairs that need to be done.
Thereafter, whatever funds are left over, including any interest, which has accrued, shall be paid over to the tenant. The landlord must make available to the tenant all the receipts for the repairs that are carried out. If there are no new defects or damages, then the landlord must timeously refund the full deposit plus interest to the tenant.
On a final note, he cautions that if landlords fail to conduct an inspection on expiration of the lease they will have no future claim against the previous tenant for any possible damages which may have been left behind.