Maintenance and repairs when renting

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27 Aug 2013

Negotiation of the responsibilities of each party in a rental agreement, i.e. the tenant and the landlord, can sometimes have some 'grey' areas.

What the landlord must do is ensure that all the general fixtures in the home are working properly. The tenant, however, must not abuse the fact that the landlord will repair and maintain his property by causing undue damage to the property.

Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, says this often happens when it comes to dealing with general maintenance of the building and repairs.

The law isn’t specific as to who is responsible for what as far as maintenance and repairs to a home go, but simply put 'fair wear and tear' must be accepted by the landlord and he must keep the property in a fit manner to live in, says Bauer.

The interpretation of 'fair wear and tear' differs from person to person, as does a fit state to live in. Some people would not notice a worn carpet for instance while others would find it unacceptable, and some would accept the nicks and scrapes on walls from little children being in the house whereas others would not.

What the landlord must do is ensure that all the general fixtures in the home are working properly. Bauer says the geyser must be working,  must heat water adequately and not leak or drip, the doors of the home must lock and close properly, the oven and stove, if provided, must be in full working order, the lights must all be fully functional, or electric doors or gates must have fully functioning remotes and motors.

The tenant, however, must not abuse the fact that the landlord will repair and maintain his property by causing undue damage to the property.

At all ingoing and outgoing inspections of rented units, the tenant and landlord or the landlord’s agent should be present and photos should be taken before and after, so that there is a digital record of the condition of each room.

“One can usually see what is fair use and what is deliberate neglect or abuse." Bauer notes a recent inspection of a home where there were iron marks on the carpets which the tenant had said nothing about. He had said the carpets were still fine and just needed a clean.

At all ingoing and outgoing inspections of rented units, the tenant and landlord or the landlord’s agent should be present and photos should be taken before and after, so that there is a digital record of the condition of each room, Bauer says. In this way proof can be kept on record of what state the unit was handed over in.

It is advisable for tenants to read and understand the lease agreement fully and for landlords to list as much as possible that needs to be maintained by the tenant. For example, if the unit has a garden that the tenant is responsible for maintaining, this should be mentioned in the lease.

“The tenant landlord relationship can stay a happy one as long as there is clear communication and respect for each other’s position." He says the landlord must provide a home he would be happy to live in himself and the tenant should treat it as he would treat something he owns.

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