Advice and Opinion

Property owners are to ensure electrical safety in rental properties

There are sometimes incidences, whether through lack of attention or the tenant not being available when a rental agent wants to do an inspection, that some electrical faults could become evident in a let home, and the tenant does not notify the agent or the landlord that this has happened.

There could be various reasons for this, which cannot always be explained, but landlords should perhaps inspect these every few months or instruct their agents to do so, purely for safety reasons, says Gail Cawood, rentals manager for Knight Frank Residential SA.

A recent case encountered (not one of Knight Frank’s clients) where an oven was reported by an ingoing tenant as faulty, actually revealed that the old stove and oven needed replacement and not just repair, as they created a fire hazard. Initially, the owner wanted the element repaired in the oven as it was malfunctioning, but, because the oven was a very old model (it was over 20 years old and the owner admitted had never been replaced since he had bought the unit), the electrician called out could not find the necessary spare parts and suggested replacement instead.

When the old appliance was removed they found that the cupboards and counter top on either side of the stove had been charred and burnt, to the point of crumbling. Had the stove and oven perhaps been left on for prolonged periods of time, this could have started a fire, which would easily have spread to the rest of the kitchen.

There were other faults reported, such as faulty light switches and plug points – and these were also in urgent need of repair as they were “shorting” and could have become a fire hazard or could have shocked someone.

Tenants must allow their rental agent or landlord to inspect the property from time to time (with reasonable notice as laid out in their lease agreement) as this is not done only to ensure that no damage is done to the property, but to check that everything is in working order within the unit. In addition, anyone renting a property must report things that malfunction as soon as possible as these can become hazards if not remedied.

“Faults will not generally be picked up by the owner as he is not resident in the home and if the agent cannot enter to do the necessary inspections, these could cause serious damage. In addition, the resulting damage might not necessarily be covered by the household insurance policy”, warned Cawood.