Written for YourProperty

A reader asks the Property Poser experts whether he can take his landlord to task over repairs that have been left undone since he moved in four years ago.

Although no joint inspection was carried out when the tenant and his wife first took occupation, the reader says he inspected the flat on his own and compiled a list of problems.

This document was duly presented to the landlord. He signed it and undertook to repair the identified problem areas but did not live up to his word.

The reader reports that there has been a seemingly endless debate between himself and the landlord regarding the electrical wiring, parquet flooring and geyser.

The geyser burst approximately one year into the lease and, possibly in an effort to save money, the landlord had an unqualified person install the replacement geyser. A mildew problem has since arisen, ostensibly due to some fault during the installation process.

The wiring also seems to be faulty as the geyser does not appear to be linked to its own circuit and can thus not be switched off independently.

A new addition to the reader’s family, in the form of twin daughters, has again highlighted the problems with the parquet flooring. The tiles are loose and come out when walked on, thus posing a danger to his little girls.

The tenant would like to know whether he would be able to carry out the repairs himself and present the proof of expenditure to the landlord so that he may be reimbursed.

His assertion is that the repairs are not strictly maintenance but rather constitute the repairs that should have been effected at the time of occupation.

The reader does not mention whether there is a lease agreement in place between himself and the landlord, says Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town.

“If there is, our reader should examine the provisions of the agreement carefully to determine if any provision is relevant to the situation and could assist him.”

Van der Merwe says certain provisions may deal specifically with necessary repairs and the manner in which such repairs can be effected.

“The reader may have to give his landlord notice of the required repairs under a specific provision of the lease and allow for time to expire before being able to carry them out himself.”

Something to note in this instance, is that the address to be used for notifications and the method of delivery required are often specified in the lease, says Van der Merwe.

“Proper notice under the lease may be required.”

According to Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys in Somerset West, the Rental Housing Act also provides the reader with a possible remedy.

“The regulations to the Act provide, among other things, that the landlord is required to maintain the electrical systems in good order and repair and that he or she must also repair damage to the dwelling caused by fair wear and tear.”

More importantly, says Hill, the regulations oblige him to execute the repairs for which a landlord is responsible under the lease, as well as those identified during his inspections or on receipt of notice from a tenant.

“But a landlord is not liable for repairs if a tenant, his or her household members or visitors brought about the state of disrepair.”

Hill says the landlord must carry out the repairs for which he is responsible within 14 days of discovery or any further period that may be agreed to between landlord and tenant.

“The reader can therefore endeavour to resolve the matter by referring it to his provincial Rental Housing Tribunal under the Act.”

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