There can be some confusion when it comes to who is responsible for which elements of maintenance on a rental property.
“Some aspects fall on the landlord and some on the tenants – it isn’t automatically all up to the landlord, and there is no obligation on the landlord to make cosmetic upgrades during the lease,” says Natalie Muller, Regional Head of Rentals at Jawitz Properties Western Cape. As the current cold weather can highlight faults on a property – such as leaks – now is a good time to make sure everything is in order and to have clarity on who is responsible for what elements of maintenance.
Landlords are responsible for the structural maintenance of the property, which would include the painting and maintenance of the external walls and the roof. This would include repairing roof leaks, damp and rising damp. “They are also responsible for electrical wiring and plumbing as well as the stove, geyser, and electric fence, alarm systems, automatic gate motors and pool pumps, if applicable,” Muller adds. If there is a pool, the landlord is responsible for any pool leaks, as well as maintaining pool covers in light of water restrictions. The tenant’s responsibility is to look after the internal aspects of the property and the upkeep of the pool and garden, where necessary.
It is the landlords’ responsibility to ensure that the property is compliant in terms of health and safety regulations at the time of occupation by the tenant, and the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the same.
Should normal ‘wear and tear’ occur, any repairs are required to be made by the landlord. Home owners insurance is highly recommended to cover landlords in the event of burst geysers, for example, but this does not necessarily cover ‘wear and tear’, making it important for the general upkeep of the property to be maintained regularly. However, the tenant is required to inform the landlord of any issues and does have some maintenance responsibility too.
Any damage to the structure and fixtures as a result of the tenants’ negligence, or failing to report issues, or by not looking after the premises, will result in liability for the tenants to repair. Tenants are responsible for keeping all gutters and pipes free from obstruction, so blocked drains and roof leaks due to gutters that were not regularly cleaned will be for the tenant’s account.
“This brings us to the essential legal requirement of inspections – both at the beginning of a lease and upon renewal or exiting of the lease and premises, as well as if there are any checks in between,” Muller adds. “Having a managing agent involved really eases these processes, this also gives a landlord the comfort of knowing that the tenant is looking after the property.”
Inspections should be done by external contractors to ensure professional compliance and should include photos and printed documents signed digitally by all parties on site at the inspection. In the case of Jawitz Properties, all pictures are date stamped and saved, and any further ad hoc inspections can be compared accordingly. On exit, an inspection is once again performed using the same comparisons, guaranteeing a transparency of the process and maintaining the authenticity of the report.
“This process protects the tenant’s deposit and assists in resolving any potential disputes around new and previous maintenance issues, damage and liability determination. At Jawitz Properties, we have a dedicated maintenance controller, speeding up the time taken for repairs and maintenance. Always considering that without the landlord’s approval of the quotes, no work can be done,” Muller says.
It is very important to have an honest and open relationship between tenants and landlords (or between tenants and managing agents who will liaise with landlords on the tenants’ behalf) to keep properties properly maintained, especially as the winter chill remains.