A quick trip to the Builders Warehouse over the weekend confirms that South Africans are indeed getting stuck into DIY projects. Renovations, touch-ups and home improvements are very common this time of year as tenants sign and renew lease agreements. But before rushing off with paint rollers and tile cement, let’s look at the contractual challenges tenants and landlords face when it comes to the maintenance and improvement of a property. When does decoration become damages, and upkeep become unkept?
When it comes to the upgrading and upkeep of a property it’s recommended that the tenant and landlord agree on the direct and indirect operating costs of the property and what they consider upkeep and maintenance to be upfront. Both parties should also agree and be clear on which costs each party is responsible for.
Most lease agreements state that the landlord maintains the outside of the property, which may include garden or pool services. And the tenant is responsible for maintaining the inside of the property.
Tips for tenants and landlords to avoid disputes:
- When moving into the property, the tenant and landlord should inspect the property together, and list in writing the existing defects. Both parties should sign this list.
- When moving out of the property, conduct an inspection together again. Draw up a list of defects and compare this to the initial list.
- The tenant has the right to repair all the damages before the landlord claims for it. In most lease agreements the tenant is instructed to return the property to the condition it was received in. For example, patching and painting walls where art or pictures might have hung.
- If the tenant chooses not to repair the damages, the landlord may do so by subtracting these costs from the deposit paid.
- All receipts paid for repairs should be kept as proof.
- In rare cases where it is proven that the tenant has made improvements to the property, effectively raising the value of the property, the landlord may be liable for paying the tenant for these improvements. An attorney should be consulted in this case.
- It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the tenants initials the relevant clauses where upgrade, upkeep and maintenance responsibilities are discussed.
- The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is “habitable” before the tenant moves in. He or she is not, for example, expected to have carpets and curtains dry-cleaned or to have all stains removed from the floor and wall.
- Landlords should insist that all municipal accounts are posted to them rather than the tenants, even though the tenant may be responsible for paying these.
When it comes to lease agreements there is no one-size-fits-all solution. They come in different shapes and sizes and it’s always a good idea to have an attorney double-check yours before signing.
If you would like us to attend a pre or post inspection of a property with your landlord or tenant to ensure that all agreements are understood and signed, contact SD Law & Associates today.