Landlords, these are NOT your responsiblities
As a landlord, the more you spend on maintenance and repairs, the less profit you make on your rental property. But how do you weigh up the fact that a dirty, run-down property will not attract or keep good tenants against the cost of attracting or keeping good tenants?
“Generally speaking, it is much more expensive to have a property standing empty than to maintain it, attend to any repairs that may be needed and get expert help from a reputable managing agent to select good tenants that will take good care of your asset,” says Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company, Trafalgar.
He notes that the Rental Housing Act also provides for the landlord to maintain any property that is rented out, both internally and externally – although it does also say that the landlord and tenant can make a different arrangement. “In this case, however, your lease agreement will need to spell out exactly who is responsible for what maintenance.
“And in all cases, it is very important to correctly manage expectations from the outset. Tenants need to understand, for example, that the landlord’s responsibility is to hand over the property in a ‘habitable’ or ‘fit for purpose’ condition – which means that it should be safe to occupy, clean and neat and that everything such as lights and taps should be in working order.
“It does not mean that the landlord is responsible for cleaning the property while the tenants are in occupation, or for mowing the lawn and maintaining the pool.”
Landlords, however, need to understand that they are responsible for fixing any problem related to “fair wear and tear” – that is, damage resulting from the everyday use of an item or from age or exposure to the weather – even when it is the tenant that has the use of the item. Good examples are door handles and locks, gate motors, pool pumps and geysers.
“What is more, the repair or replacement of such items needs to be attended to as soon as possible, while things that are more a matter of aesthetics, such as repainting the property, can be done at a later date by arrangement with the tenants,” he says, noting that if the property is in a sectional title complex, some exterior maintenance items, such as waterproofing or garden upkeep, may be the responsibility of the body corporate rather than the individual landlord, and this will then also need to be spelled out in the lease.
“And finally, there should be no room for doubt or dispute that any damages that are beyond fair wear and tear, or have been deliberately caused, will be the responsibility of the tenants – or that they may forfeit their deposit if they move out without making the necessary repairs,” says Schaefer. “This is where the importance of detailed ingoing and outgoing inspection reports will become especially evident, and once again prove the value of working with an experienced and thorough managing agent.”