What is landlord's responsibility towards property maintenance?

When it comes to rental issues, tenants mostly complain about lack of property maintenance while landlords complain of late payments.

Sunell Afrika, rental manager at IHPC, says it is important to know what constitutes "fair wear and tear" and what the tenant's responsibilities are.

According to the Rental Housing Act and the Unfair Practises Act a "landlord must let a dwelling which at the commencement of the lease is in a condition reasonably fit for the purpose for which it is let and keep and maintain the dwelling in compliance with all the ordinances, health or safety regulations or any other law".

"This is a mouthful," says Afrika, "but in simple terms, it means that when you are renting out residential property the landlord must make sure that everything is in good working condition and make sure that the lease clearly states what the tenant's responsibility is in maintaining the property in that order. If the property rented out is a well kept one, you will attract good tenants, who will look after the property as they would their own."

There is sometimes wear and tear on carpets, for example, where over time it becomes frayed or starts tearing - in this case the landlord must take steps to replace this. If it is a matter of steam cleaning the carpet because of dirt that has built up, it is the tenant's responsibility.

Some landlords specify in their leases, for instance, that a garden service is supplied and must be used by the tenant or that certain items must be done by the tenant, such as cleaning dirty marks off walls or keeping the oven clean.

The chances of being able to charge slightly more for a well maintained unit are higher, as well as being able to increase the rental on the unit each year, she said.

It is important for tenants to note that they cannot withhold their rent if they are unhappy with the landlord's maintenance or repair of the building. They can, however, enter into an agreement whereby they pay for repairs and it is deducted off the amount owed to the landlord.

IHPC will be running regular workshops to help educate the public on owning and renting property and are running a free workshop for landlords which will cover "Unlawful evictions, the CPA'S affect on landlords", on 6th June from 19h00 to 20h30. This will be held at the Institute of Estate Agents Western Cape offices in Sheldon Way, Pinelands. The guest speaker is Marlon Shevelew, who specialises in residential, commercial, industrial and retail property law.

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