One of our readers, who is currently renting a fixed property, has approached the panel about a maintenance matter.
He reports that something went wrong with the bath and it became blocked. After a while, he decided to call his landlord in to have a look.
The landlord informed him that if the problem emanated from inside the premises, it would be the tenant’s responsibility to fix it since he received the property with the bath in working order.
If, however, the blockage was the result of a problem lying outside the leased premises, the landlord would undertake to remedy it.
The reader would like to know if this is the correct approach as he feels that he is being treated unfairly by being expected to pay for plumbing expenses in a property he does not own. He feels it should be the landlord’s job to do so.
“Unfortunately, we are not told what the terms of the rental agreement are regarding whose responsibility it is to take care of interior maintenance issues,” says Brian Kinnear, principal of Fresh Lifestyle Properties in East London.
Kinnear says, very often, a clause to the effect that the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of the interior of the property – fair wear and tear excepted – is contained in the lease agreement.
“If this is the case, it would be up to the parties to determine exactly what is wrong with the item in question – in this instance, the plumbing connected to the bath.”
In a very old property, for example, problems with the plumbing might arise due to wear and tear, says Kinnear, causing the landlord to be responsible for its replacement.
“On the other hand, however, it is equally possible that drains and pipes become blocked due to some action or inaction on the part of the tenant, making it his duty to have it fixed.”
According to Grant Berndt from Abdo and Abdo Attorneys in East London, this forms part of the tenant’s responsibility to hand back the premises to the landlord in the same condition in which it was received.
“The tenant often acknowledges in the lease agreement that he accepts that the premises were in good order when he took occupation. This places a burden on him to return the property in a substantially similar condition upon vacating the property.”
Practically speaking, the reader is in the situation where he needs to use the bath that is not working, says Berndt. “It may therefore be necessary for him to take the first step in calling in for advice as to what exactly is wrong with it.”
Berndt says the tenant would be wise to consult the lease agreement in order to ascertain who would then be responsible for fixing the problem.
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