Advice and Opinion

General maintenance and repairs when renting

Negotiation of the responsibilities of each party in a rental agreement, i.e. the tenant and the landlord, can sometimes have some “grey” areas, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the property management company IHFM, particularly when it comes to dealing with general maintenance of the building and repairs. 

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

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, said Bauer, 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. The geyser must be working in the way it is designed and must heat water adequately and not leak or drip, the doors of the home must lock and close the way they should, 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, etc.

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

“One can usually see what is fair use and what is deliberate neglect or abuse,” said Bauer. “A case in point was 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 clean.”

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