Rental repairs: when is it your turn?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Regardless of how good a rental property looks, thing can and often do go wrong. Landlords need to remember that although tenants are responsible for some maintenance issues, there are times when they will have to get someone in to repair a fault and pay the bill. Likewise, tenants should not assume that the landlord is responsible for every maintenance issue and must remember there are going to be times when they will have to pay for repair work to be undertaken.

While the lease agreement should make very clear who is responsible for what, common sense should prevail. Tenants who expect landlords to pay for work without the knowledge or permission of the landlord are undoubtedly going to come unstuck. Unfortunately this seems to be a fairly common problem and generally leads to disagreements and all-round unhappiness.

Tenants should consider looking at every situation from the landlord’s perspective. Firstly, landlords, just like the rest of us, have budgets and receiving a bill for something that they didn't know about is going to cause offence. Secondly, landlords, particularly those who own a number of investment properties, generally work with a dedicated maintenance team. It is often more cost-effective, given the amount of work that they give these individuals, to use someone that they know and trust.

Talk about it

As always, it appears that communication is key and those who take the time to discuss the issue with the landlord may well find that the outcome benefits all involved. While it may be safe to say that some landlords are not always reasonable and are not all that willing to part with their hard-earned cash in order to pay for a repair, this doesn't mean that a tenant can use his own discretion and bill the landlord for the work done.

Unless otherwise stated, tenants rent a property as is, and the time to discuss issues such as the state of the paintwork is before the lease is signed. It's unreasonable to expect the landlord to paint the home within weeks of it being rented, when the tenant was perfectly aware of the state of the home before he moved in. Likewise, it is unlikely that a landlord is going to pay for a pool man to keep the swimming pool water sparkling once the tenant has moved in or fork out for a garden service to keep the garden neat and tidy. These responsibilities and costs are generally specified in the lease agreement and should be understood by both parties before the papers are signed.

Repairing the damage

Assuming that landlords will pay to repair for damage caused by tenants is totally unreasonable and tenants that make a habit of asking for this may find it difficult to get the landlord to agree to fix bigger problems when they do arise. It may therefore be advisable to only contact the landlord or his agent when serious problems occur. While we are on this subject, tenants should remember that landlords are human and phoning your landlord at midnight to report that the power has gone off (and yes, before you ask, this does happen) is going to sour the relationship somewhat.

As with most things the relationship between landlord and tenant is a two-way street. Play by the rules, maintain the property to a satisfactory level and you may well find that the landlord is on your side when it comes to annual increase time.

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