Can an agent go over the landlord’s head in an emergency?
Hi, the electrical system is non-compliant in a flat (no trip switch) and the tenant is paranoid. The owner is kicking against the work being done and he asked us to wait a bit as he is overseas and only returning late April.
Our tenant and us are worried she might be electrocuted which obviously has dire consequences for the owner. The tenant insists this gets done as soon as possible (the quote is nominal) but we have to take instruction from the owner.
I advised him that it is dangerous and has to be done, and if the tenant cancels the lease due to this there will be no consequences for her. We honestly feel that we should have this done and take up the battle when he returns; reason being that it is a possible life-threatening emergency. What is your take on this please?
Hi, while you, as the landlord’s agent, may not be able to compel the owner to fulfill his legal obligations towards the tenant, you are quite correct that in this instance, the owner is obliged to ensure that the electrics at the leased property are compliant with the safety regulations.
In this regard, I note that the owner of a property is required to be in possession of a valid electrical compliance certificate at all times. This is regulated by the Electrical Installation Regulations promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993.
The tenant may therefore demand compliance from the owner, and in the absence of his cooperation, report the issues of non-compliance to the relevant municipal authority. The owner may then be issued with a compliance notice, which, if ignored, would render him liable to a fine and/or prosecution.
Alternatively, the tenant may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal for a ruling on the issue. The tribunal may, in my view, treat this issue (and the owner’s conduct) as an unfair rental practice, and may therefore order compliance on the part of the owner.
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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.