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My rental agent entered defects AFTER I signed the exit inspection

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Q

Hi, when we moved out of our rental property in Pretoria East the agent came to inspect the house within almost half an hour of the furniture removal truck leaving. At the time I was still busy cleaning the house, and we had an agreement with the agent that we could come back the following day to finish with cleaning.

During the inspection the agent took notes on all defects in the house. When we were in the one bathroom she mentioned a strong smell of cat urine. I pointed out that the litter box was in the bathroom and the cat had been closed in this room since the morning as we didn’t want to have the cat startled and run away (at that point it was late afternoon).

The litter box contained normal garden sand and not specialised sand. This was the only room in the house I which she mentioned a smell. She noted in two rooms that the carpets needed to be cleaned, but as mentioned previously, I still hadn’t cleaned the house. The one room only had fluff on the carpet which was already washed.


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The next day all the carpets were cleaned with an industrial-strength carpet cleaner, as well as the rest of the house, including the walls, plugs etc. We left the keys for the landlord, and the house unlocked with windows open for airing. The following morning the agent phoned me, stating the house was very nice and clean, and we organised that I pick up the last of the refuse bags by 12pm. She then mentioned that the landlord was saying there was a cat urine smell throughout the house, and that it needed to be cleaned by professional exterminators.

After 45 minutes she phoned again saying the landlord didn’t want us to come on the premises again as she was so angry at us. She later sent a message saying we could come to collect the refuse but were not allowed into the house to witness the overpowering smell. I walked passed one room and there was definitely a smell that wasn’t there the day before when we moved out. The new tenants arrived in the afternoon and stated they couldn’t move into the house due to the overpowering smell.

We communicated via email, stating that the agent would have noted said smell when she did the exit inspection, to which she replied our furniture was still in the house, hence disguising the smell. We have evidence that the moving truck had already left by that time. We also told them that we did not accept the damages that were alleged (cat smell), as it wasn’t there when we left and wasn’t noted on the exit inspection. They didn’t reply to this, but went on to get quotes which we continually declined as it wasn’t part of the exit inspection notes or damages.agent enter after the fact

We then received an email giving us a breakdown of the damages that has to be paid out of the deposit, including the carpet cleaners. When we had a look at the attached defects’ list, all of a sudden there were notes made of a cat urine smell in the additional comments box – made in the same pen and hand as the other notes, as well as a note on dirty carpet in the other bedroom. Please note the first comments were of a dirty carpet, not a smelly carpet. So it now looked as if it was noted from the beginning and that I signed to acknowledge it. If I had acknowledged it, why would we have disputed it the whole time? The agent would have sent me the defect list, but she never did after I signed it.

How do I move forward with this? – Enita

A

Hi Enita, in this instance it seems that there is a clear and definite dispute of fact. If you deny that you did not agree to the cat urine smell (as per the complaint) being noted on the outgoing inspection report, it may be worthwhile for you to request to have sight of the original document. Alternatively, you should proceed to lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal, and thereafter request the agent to submit the original report to the tribunal for consideration.

As a point of concern, I note that the fact that you were not provided with a copy of the report upon exit would have afforded the agent with an opportunity to insert the additional notes into the report after the fact. Thus, it may be the case that producing the original report may not render any positive result for you.

Be that as it may, I am of the view that the agent ought to have provided you with a copy of the outgoing inspection report immediately after signature. This is not only usual practice, but it is also the tenant’s right.

Therefore, if the original document does not accord with your version, you could attack the report and dispute its validity on the basis that the agent had not provided you with a copy thereof immediately after signature.


Got a burning legal question? Email david@hometimes.co.za and we’ll be sure to assist you


Who is Marlon Shevelew?

Marlon Shevelew, director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates.

Marlon Shevelew, director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates.

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 ClubRentDoc  and LevyDoc which offers clients affordable legal fees for rental property and sectional title related matters. Marlon is contactable on marlon@marlonshevelew.co.za anytime for more information on these services.

david.steynberg@gmail.com

David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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