Rental maintenance - who is responsible?

Before signing the contract, both landlords and tenants should make sure that all parties involved know who is responsible for maintenance on a rental property.

The law is fairly open ended regarding the maintenance and repairs section in a rental agreement, simply stating that the landlord is required to maintain the property in such a manner that it maintains the purpose for which it was let.

What this means is that the general fixtures and fittings must be maintained in a workable condition, such as a functional geyser that provides hot water, doors that can be locked and a working stove. However, if damage to these fittings were caused by a tenant's’ negligence these rules do not apply.

Read your lease agreement carefully

Before you sign the agreement make sure that you are aware of what is your responsibility and what is the landlord’s - these can differ based on what is stated on the agreement. Once you have ascertained this ensure that everything that you have agreed to has been put down in writing, verbal agreements will generally not hold up according to the law.

Furthermore, there are a great many aspects of property maintenance to take into consideration; things you might never have contemplated until now, so be prepared. Insurance issues are a good example of this. For instance, if the building should flood and the carpets are ruined, then it is usually the obligation of the landlord's insurance to pay out. On the other hand, the tenant needs to be insured for the damage caused to furniture and the like.

Additional complications come in the form of properties let within complexes where the body corporate is responsible for the maintenance of outside facilities. This can be extremely frustrating for both landlord and tenant as, essentially, neither party can move forward without the co-operation of the body corporate. 

Tenants can be caught unaware and it is therefore recommended that you ensure you have read and understood your lease agreement.

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