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The landlord’s responsibilities for repairs and maintenance of their rental property are described in the Rental Housing Act and Unfair Practices Regulations. While tenants are responsible for some maintenance of the property, certain items fall clearly under the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities. In terms of common law, we follow the practice that if the landlord installed it, they are responsible for reasonable wear and tear to the object.
The geyser, and any repairs needed to it, are the responsibility of the landlord. Burst geysers can cause some serious damage, which is why landlords should have homeowners’ insurance to cover the cost of damages to the property. However, this will not cover damages to the tenant’s furniture, like ruined couches, beds, carpets, TVs, etc. (This is why many people take out household contents insurance, which covers your goods in the case of things like a burst geyser, as well as theft).
Most rentals in South Africa come with a stove and/or oven. This appliance will fall under the landlord’s responsibilities to maintain (unless it says differently in your rental contract). It’s always a good idea to test items like this at the pre-inspection before moving in. You put any items that need repairing or replacing on a written defect list that must be attached to your lease agreement. The landlord must then fix the items, unless you come to an agreement otherwise.
If you discover a fault later, like a stove plate that doesn’t work, you should let your landlord know as soon as you can. As long as the issue isn’t from abuse, misuse, negligence or accident on your part, the landlord will have to repair/replace the item.
Roof leaks and leaking toilets and pipes are part of the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities. Damp, and rising damp, which can look like mould or wet spots that grow on the walls and roof are also the landlord’s responsibility, as they affect the structure of the property and can be the result of improper maintenance. Damp tends to show up in places where moisture enters the walls/roof. This can happen because of constant rain, improper sealing, dripping water or leaks, and condensation.
Damp does not appear overnight, and if it shows up soon after the tenant moves in or was already present at the time the tenant moved in, the tenant cannot be held responsible for the cost of getting rid of it when they move out. The tenant should try their best to avoid contributing to causing damp by, for example, not trapping the steam from showers/baths in the bathroom to the point where mould spots form on the roof. However, ultimately damp remains the responsibility of the landlord to fix.
The landlord may not charge the cost of any of the above repairs to the tenant (unless the tenant agrees to pay for them), force the tenant to pay for these things or take the cost of the repairs from the tenant’s security deposit.
You may also be interested in:
Living together unmarried, what are your rights?
3 things to check before signing: lease agreement
4 hidden costs in your rental agreement
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* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 15 September 2022
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