Landlords Responsibilities for Property Repairs and Maintenance

on Sunday, 09 March 2014. Posted in LettingWorx Property Rentals

What is the Landlords responsibility for Property Maintenance?

To be clear on landlords responsibilities for repairs and maintenance – owners often ask why they should repair something like a broken lock, alarm contact, or auto gate not opening, when “the tenant is the one living there”. The simple answer comes down to, tenants can generally only be held liable for repairs/replacement in the property if the damage was caused by the tenant actions, or for example items that have a short life such as light bulbs and fuses. Alarm systems, auto gates and doors, locks, fixtures and fittings, appliances, anything provided for the use of the tenant are generally the responsibility of the owner to repair, unless damaged by the tenant / damaged due to tenant negligence, or of course unless you have both agreed otherwise in your lease agreement.

Damage due to fair wear and tear is the owner’s responsibility to correct. The tenant is responsible for costs incurred because of wilful or negligent actions.

To cover a few things often questioned - Fireplace chimneys – the landlord should maintain the fireplace in working condition e.g. having the chimney cleaned at appropriate intervals. Blocked drains – this is usually due to tenant usage so payable by tenant (hair, food, leaves etc) – but if blockage due to roots of trees it would be for landlord cost. Light bulbs, fuses (e.g. stove, unless caused by a problem with stove or electrical system), and tap washers – the tenant is liable for replacement during the tenancy.

Gardens – the landlord is generally responsible for major projects, e.g. tree felling, and insect/vermin eradication (unless the tenant caused the condition to occur). The tenant for general maintenance, adequate watering, trimming bushes, cutting lawns etc. and the removal of garden waste.

Repairs to appliances provided for use of the tenant require a mention because owners so often balk at paying for repairs as they reason that the tenant has this in daily use. As with any fixture or fitting, the landlord is responsible for repairs to appliances provided under the tenancy agreement unless the damage was caused by the deliberate actions or neglect of the tenant. Unless it has been agreed upfront that the landlord will supply the appliance but the tenant will be liable for repairs (which tenants would be unlikely to agree to on an older item).

Tenants are obliged to report any damage, failing which they could find themselves held liable for any further damage due to lack of timeous attention to the initial problem – and tenants are obliged to provide access for contractors to effect repairs, not the agent as some tenants fondly think.

Fair wear and tear can be defined as “deterioration or depreciation in the value of the subject matter by ordinary and reasonable use" and the Rental Housing Act specifically excludes the tenant’s liability for this (article by local Cape Town attorney, who specialises in property rental matters, on Property24 http://www.property24.com/articles/tenants-deposit-and-property-repairs/16375 ) And as further mentioned in his article, placing this responsibility on the tenant would probably also violate the Consumer Protection Act.

LettingWorx - March 2014

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