Watch out for dodgy landlords

Tips on avoiding dodgy tenants are plentiful, but what about avoiding dodgy landlords?  

“Unfortunately there are just as many landlords who neglect their responsibilities towards their properties as there are tenants who do the same,” says Francois Venter, Director of Jawitz Properties.

The most important thing, says Venter, is to know upfront, before signing a lease, what your prospective landlord is responsible for, and whether or not these responsibilities are reflected in the lease.

“The landlord or owner of a rental property is responsible primarily for structural maintenance,” says Francois Venter, Director of Jawitz Properties. “This would generally include maintaining the roof, exterior walls, attending to any problems with damp, and the geyser.”

Tenants are responsible for wear and tear maintenance such as keeping gutters clean, maintaining the swimming pool and treating the property with respect. When the lease is up and a property is handed back to a landlord, it should be in the same condition as it was when the tenant moved in. “The only grey area that can become an issue is what is fair wear and tear,” says Venter. “It can be difficult to determine.”

There are ways tenants can safeguard themselves against accusations from landlords. Take photos of the condition of the property and be sure that a proper inspection is conducted. “The landlord should do this routinely between tenants, and should be aware of the condition of the property,” adds Venter. “It is also advisable to communicate openly if and when there are breakages, or any problems occur on the property.”

The lease agreement should also stipulate the conditions and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant.  “If a tenant fails to bring attention to any faults of the property within the first 7 days of occupation, this will mean the tenant accepts the property as is,” says Venter.

“Landlords and tenants can bargain on aspects such as a higher rent if the landlord agrees to make some upgrades to the property, or a lower rent if tenants decide to accept certain conditions within the property that may make it less attractive.  If bargaining is done, the lease should include clauses that state these agreements.”

Landlords should have house insurance that protects the property against fire, flood and other structural damages. Tenants on the other hand, should take out contents insurance.

“If there is a burst geyser, for example, and water damage destroys your television, you cannot expect your landlord to pay for a new television. Tenants are responsible for covering their own contents,” says Venter.

Contents insurance can further include personal liability cover which would insure tenants against third party claims. “In the event that a friend of yours falls down the stairs at the property you are renting, contents insurance would cover you for this, provided you have this benefit included in your policy.”

It is important to check that your landlord has agreed to what he or she should be responsible for, and follows through accordingly. “Remember, you cannot default on your rent if your landlord refuses to pay for painting the interior walls. The agreed upon circumstances, as presented in the lease are all the landlord will be accountable for,” concludes Venter.

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