Landlords and tenants use rental agents because they assume that, as professionals, these agents know their business and will protect the rights of both parties. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and it is very important for both parties to ensure that the rental agent is not only qualified to do his job, but also complies with the Rental Housing Act.
According to Wayne Albutt, the national manager of Rawson Rentals, one of the most important tasks a rental property agent has, if he is to ensure a good, ongoing relationship between tenants and landlords, is to make certain that a joint inspection is carried out at the property before the tenant moves in.
“If this is not done and the subsequent report is not signed and agreed to by all parties, there are likely to be claims and counter-claims when the lease expires and the tenant moves on.”
He says that there are five steps which a rental agent should follow:
• He should inspect the property with the landlord before the tenant moves in and should identify all snags and problems before they need attention. If possible, these should be rectified before the tenant takes occupation. If this is not possible, they should be listed in the tenant’s lease.
• He should take possession of a complete set of keys and check that all locks are working.
• If necessary, he should ensure that the pool pump and filter and the garden irrigation system are working.
• If the property is furnished, he should be in possession of, or draw up, a comprehensive inventory. This list needs to be accurate and, once checked, should form an addendum to the lease.
• He should ensure that all appliances and equipment on the inventory are in working order.
“With these precautions attended to and sorted out, the agent must then do the joint incoming inspection with the tenant,” says Albutt. “This should be carried out room by room, with each item and possible defect reported on and described in full.”
Although all this makes perfect sense, it is frightening how often tenants take occupation without conducting an inspection with the estate agent and neglects to make a list of faults. Landlords are often accused of being unreasonable by forcing tenants to pay for things they say the tenant has damaged. However, the tenant will not have a leg to stand on if he failed to document the problems when he first moved into the premises.
Albutt says that the more detail that can accompany the defects list, the better. The agent should take photographs and attach them to the report if possible. General pictures, showing the entire room, as well as photographs exhibiting the problem areas should be taken. Any imperfections should be noted and photographed including hooks, nails, cracks and plaster peelings.
The agent should also note the water and electricity readings at the start of the lease.
“Once the inspection report has been completed, it should be signed by the tenant and by the agent,” says Albutt. “If the tenant refuses to sign, this has to be noted on the report. The usual practice is to then appoint an independent inspector to give a report on the whole house, or to countersign as a witness. Once the report has been signed, copies should be made and these should be sent to both the tenant and the landlord with the agent, of course, keeping his copy for later reference.”