Rental disputes can be avoided

Many of the cases seen at the Rental Housing Tribunal concern landlords who believe their properties have been damaged and want to claim from their tenants through security deposits.

However, to succeed landlords have to prove absolutely that the tenants are in the wrong, says Annette Evans, regional general manager of the Institute of Estate Agents, Western Cape.

“Landlords and managing agents must remember that when new tenants are moving into rented premises the incoming and outgoing inspections must be done as early as possible, and these should be backed up by photographs of each room or items of interest,” she says.

“Landlord won’t be able to claim for future damages from the deposit without proof of the original state the property was in. It has to be remembered that whatever law gives the greatest protection to the tenant at present is the law that stands, and if the landlord cannot prove damage done to the property there is little chance of legally claiming money from the tenant.”

She says the ingoing inspection should be done before the keys are handed over and if tenants find any fault with any part of the rented property, they should report this so that it can be noted and possible repairs carried out before or as soon as possible after occupation. Digital photos of units can easily be stored with copies of the lease, so this should be kept by the managing agent, for future reference.

There should also be regular inspections during the lease period, so that any faults can be reported and damage can be picked up. Regular contact between the agent, landlord and tenant, should minimise the chances of problems arising or not being picked up. Regular contact is important, so that landlords are reassured that their properties are being looked after properly, says Evans.

“Outgoing inspections should be carried out a couple of weeks before tenants are due to vacate rented properties, as this gives them enough time to remedy problems before moving out. The last walkthrough on the day of departure could possibly include the landlord being present so that everything can be discussed with all parties present.

“Although all these steps seem simple, there are still cases where inspections have not been done or there are discrepancies as to what has been damaged and what was in bad condition originally. Following all the above steps helps eliminate the chance of dispute – from tenants’ and landlords’ point of view,” says Evans.

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