After being accused of leaving their rented flat in a dirty state, a reader wants to know if the agent or landlord is not responsible for inspecting the premises when he hands over the keys.
The reader says he and his wife rented the flat for a single year and the landlord’s agent was well aware that they would be handing over the keys on the last day of the last month.
See the reader’s question here.
He adds that they actually vacated the flat two days prior to the end of the final month and saw to the cleaning of the premises during the last two days.
The premises were thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed and vacuumed and the keys were handed over thereafter, he says.
New tenants moved in on the second day of the next month. Eleven days later he received an email from the landlord’s agent in which it was said the flat had been left in a dirty state and she had to have the premises cleaned.
She now threatens to deduct R3 000 from the deposit for the cleaning.
Inspection of a rental property is important at two stages of a lease – prior to the tenant taking occupation and at the termination of the lease period.
Often, only one of the inspections is conducted, potentially leading to dispute.
The inspection prior to the tenant taking occupation is particularly important as this establishes a baseline of sorts.
During this inspection any issues or defects can be identified and agreed upon to avoid a case of the tenant being accused of causing those damages upon the termination of the lease.
The Rental Housing Act states that the tenant and the landlord must jointly inspect the dwelling to ascertain the existence of any defects or damage.
This must be done before the tenant moves into the dwelling to determine the landlord’s responsibility for rectifying any defects or damage or to register any such defects or damage.
It is important to ensure that any defects or damage are properly identified and described.
These must be recorded in writing and signed off by the parties, with the list forming an annexure to the agreement of lease.
Another section of the act provides the procedure for the inspection at the termination of the lease, when the landlord must arrange a joint inspection of the dwelling at a mutually convenient time.
This must take place within three days prior to the lease’s expiration to ascertain if there is any damage caused during the tenant’s occupation.
The onus is clearly on the landlord to arrange an inspection of the dwelling.
In addition, it should be inspected jointly, which means the landlord and the tenant must both be present at the time of inspection.
The act contains two provisos. The first is a deeming provision whereby failure by the landlord to inspect the dwelling results in the landlord having no further claim against the tenant.
The second proviso requires the landlord to inspect the dwelling on his own within seven days of the expiration of the lease in the event of the tenant failing to respond to the landlord’s request for the inspection.
In the event of the landlord failing to comply with this section, he is required to refund the full deposit, plus interest, to the tenant.
Where it is the tenant’s failure to attend an inspection, the landlord has a number of conditions to follow.
Firstly, he may deduct from the tenant’s deposit the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling and the cost of replacing lost keys, if any.
Secondly he must refund the balance of the deposit and interest, if any, not later than 21 days after expiration of the lease.
Thirdly, he must make available to the tenant the relevant receipts that indicate the costs incurred.
Based on the information provided by the reader, it appears the landlord or his agent has failed to properly call for and conduct the inspection as required by the act.
The reader should insist on proper compliance with the appropriate section of the act.
Ask the YourProperty experts a question here.