How water restrictions are affecting tenants and landlords in Cape Town

With the City of Cape Town implementing Level 4B water restrictions as of 1 July 2017, which has very stringent water usage requirements, landlords that are renting out units with gardens might have to reassess what the tenant is responsible for when it comes to looking after the property.

“The problem with dealing with these water restrictions is that most leases would say that the tenant is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of any swimming pool or garden, which he or she now cannot reasonably do,” says Bauer.

This is according to Michael Bauer, managing director of estate agency, who says the new level of water restriction bans the use of any municipal drinking water to top up swimming pools, water the garden and any other non-essential purposes, and the City is encouraging people to use only 87 litres per person per day.

“The garden may be watered with greywater, but this might not be enough to maintain a large expanse of lawn or large flower beds, and the tenant cannot fill the swimming pool with greywater. This leads to the legal term ‘Impossibility of Performance’ being implemented, and an alternative solution needs to be derived by landlord and tenant working together to manage the garden or pool.”

Landlords need to bear in mind that the pool water level needs to be at a certain point for the pool pump to run effectively or safely, and if the water level drops below a certain point the pool surface could crack or the shell could lift or warp, warns Bauer.

He says rainwater harvesting methods, such as gutter sleeves, should be installed as the water harvested could then be diverted to the swimming pool. If the swimming pool pump needs to be backwashed, this water should be recycled to the garden, rather than allowing it to go to waste. 

Apart from using rainwater, landlords could consider installing greywater systems on their rental premises so that any shower, hand basin, bath or washing machine water can be recycled into the toilets for flushing or to water the garden.

It is possibly also now time to reconsider the plants in the garden and replacing as many “thirsty” plants with indigenous or water-wise versions. Mulch should be laid down heavily to trap water and keep flower beds moist.

Bauer says a further step to saving water could be to replace lawn with artificial lawn, paving or gravel, so that the areas needing water are smaller and more manageable for the tenant. 

“Everyone in the Western Cape needs to pull together to get through the drought, and tenants cannot be held accountable for a damaged swimming pool or pump, or a neglected garden as the lack of water is beyond their control,” says Bauer.

“A proactive approach is needed where the landlord and tenant could perhaps come up with solutions that are agreeable to both.”

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