Why a tenant’s safety should be important to landlords

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Landlords have a duty to use reasonable care to safeguard their tenants and could be in breach of contract if they fail to do so. But, legal matters aside, providing good security benefits the landlord as well.

We are all prone to blaming others when something bad happens to us, but blaming your landlord because you’ve been burgled isn't always fair. Crime affects us all and most of us have either had our homes burgled or know someone who has been targeted by criminals. That said, landlords do have a duty to use reasonable care to safeguard their tenants

So what exactly does this mean?
Basically, it all depends on where you live and more importantly, the level of criminal activity in the area. For example, it would be insane not to have burglar bars on your windows and a relatively secure fence or wall if you live in a high- crime area. However, the term ‘reasonable care’ doesn't mean that the landlord is obliged to install an expensive alarm system, complete with beams in the garden. It simply means that he must, at the very least, take steps to ensure the home is basically secure.

Security is one of the biggest, if not the biggest concern to South Africans and this obviously extends to those who are renting property. A landlord who looks after his tenant by ensuring that the property is well secured is probably going to be able to charge a premium in rent and, and this is the important bit, keep a good tenant in the property for longer.

What steps should a responsible landlord take?

Firstly it's important to remember that circumstances change and what worked a few years ago won't necessarily work now. Crime patterns and targeted areas change so keeping an eye on what's happening in your particular area is vital. Secondly, technology has revolutionised the security industry as well as making it far more affordable. Smart phones, for example, now allow you to keep an eye on what is happening in your home when you are away. The cost of this type of security has dropped significantly since it was first introduced and although the price and maintenance of cameras will have to be taken into account, it's relatively affordable and is certainly going to appeal to those who regard security as important.

Another way to impress a potential tenant is by installing an alarm system and paying a security company to monitor the home. While this may seem like an added expense which should be borne by the tenant, it will undoubtedly add value to the property, and prove to be a win-win situation if these costs are factored into the rent.

Thirdly, good security is a good investment because the costs will generally be more than recouped when it comes time to sell, providing of course that the measures taken are not regarded as antiquated.

And that leads us to our fourth point. As with anything to do with property, all security features have to be maintained to a high standard. Rusty burglar bars and security gates need to either be replaced or repaired. Walls, particularly those made using concrete panels need to be inspected on a fairly regular basis and any broken panels replaced. Electric fences also need regular maintenance, and batteries should be checked regularly in the case of battery operated installations.

While a tenant may not be that keen to carry out general maintenance on the home, because his personal safety is at stake, he may be more than willing to inspect security installations and alert the landlord to any problems. It may be an idea for landlords to chat to their tenants and ask if they will conduct regular inspections to ensure that everything is working efficiently, thus keeping himself and his family safe.

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