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Jabu* recently decided to move, but now that it’s time to pay back her deposit, the landlord is full of excuses and reasons why he needs to use her deposit money to pay for repairs – even though at the outgoing inspection Jabu and the landlord agreed that there were no damages. Now he’s charging her for things that were not noted on the outgoing inspection, like repainting the entire place and sweeping the driveway.
One of the most important factors when it comes to deposit money disputes is the incoming and outgoing inspections – so it’s a good thing Jabu made sure these were carried out. According to the Rental Housing Act, the tenant and the landlord must do these together.
Before moving in, the incoming inspection must be done. This is so that any defects or damage can be inspected and noted. The same happens at an outgoing inspection – also carried out jointly with the landlord and tenant – to inspect the property and determine if the tenant caused any damage. If the landlord fails to meet for the outgoing inspection, then legally it’s treated like an acknowledgement by the landlord that the property is in a good and proper state of repair and the landlord must refund the tenant with the full deposit plus interest.
But let’s say that in the outgoing inspection Jabu’s landlord noted damage. Under the Rental Housing Act, the landlord can deduct money for the repair of damages caused by the tenant, but the Act is very clear that fair wear and tear is not part of this. For example, if the walls are dirty, the landlord cannot just decide on the most expensive option – repainting the entire house – when he could just as easily have them cleaned for much cheaper. If a landlord wants to carry out repairs on a property from the tenant's deposit, he must first consult with the tenant on the cost.
Jabu can approach the Rental Housing Tribunal and lodge a grievance against her landlord. The Rental Housing Tribunal will know what a reasonable quote for a specific repair is, and will be able to determine whether or not your landlord's quotes are unreasonable.
A decision by the Tribunal is regarded as an order of the Magistrate’s Court, and both parties must comply with it. Any person who fails to comply with the Tribunal’s ruling will be guilty of an offense and could be fined or imprisoned, or both.
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* This is only basic advice and cannot be relied on solely. Names have been changed to protect identity.
Date added: 19 November 2019
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