Ask a lawyer – Can a tenant refuse to sign an exit inspection?
If a tenant will not sign an exit inspection, disputing, for example, damages to a built-in cupboard, can the tenant then demand that the full deposit is refunded to him and not be liable for the repairs? Note, at the incoming inspection a year ago, there was no damage noted to the built-in cupboard.
In the circumstances described, the landlord may, in my view, proceed to deduct the reasonable costs of repairing the damages that have been caused by the tenant. Moreover, the landlord may do so notwithstanding the tenant’s refusal to sign the outgoing inspection report.
In this regard, it is relevant to note that the assessment of the damages in question has in fact been conducted with reference to objective and irrefutable evidence (i.e. the incoming inspection report that was signed by the tenant), thus if the damage to the built-in cupboard was not present upon occupation, the tenant may not dispute these damages upon vacating the premises.
Whether or not the tenant signs the outgoing report is irrelevant in the present circumstances, as it is clearly a ploy to avoid compensating the landlord for the damage that he has caused to the built-in cupboard.
With reference to the above, I am of the view that the tenant’s refusal to sign the outgoing inspection report is tantamount to a refusal to participate in the outgoing inspection, and the provisions of sections 5(3)(k) and (l) of the Rental Housing Act therefore find application.
In the circumstances, the landlord may conduct the inspection in the tenant’s absence, and thereafter make the necessary deductions from the tenant’s deposit (i.e. may simply use the outgoing report that the tenant refuses to sign).
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Who is Marlon Shevelew?
Marlon Shevelew is the director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates Inc. a law firm specialising in rental property, contractual, consumer and company law. The firm is the recipient of more than 45 international property law awards. Marlon is current author of PayProp’s rental documentation and preferred rental property attorney to the Institute of Estate Agents South Africa (IEASA), the Rental Housing Tribunal Western Cape and presenter of the Advanced Residential Property Law Seminar endorsed by the University of Cape Town. Marlon has featured on Cape Talk 567 and Property Matters on DStv, contributes as a guest expert to several property publications and was invited by Juta to write a book on rental property law, by LexisNexis Butterworths to edit its forms and precedents on rental property law and, on no less than three occasions, was invited by the Law Society of South Africa to lecture and train candidate attorneys and attorneys on rental property law. Marlon also created the unique Rental Retainer Club, RentDoc and LevyDoc which offers clients affordable legal fees for rental property and sectional title related matters. Marlon is contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org anytime for more information on these services.