Written for Property Poser
A reader who has rented the same property for the past nine years has approached our Property Poser expert for help after receiving a written notice to vacate.
He explains that he contacted the owner to try and negotiate a longer stay as he was nearly in a financial position to purchase another property and would have liked to stay on until he could purchase elsewhere.
The owner did not take kindly to this request and approached an attorney, following which the reader received a communication that he was not to make any contact with the owner in future.
Furthermore, the communication stated that he was in contravention of the lease agreement as he was preventing the owner from carrying out maintenance work to the property.
The reader maintains that this is not the case, that he had merely asked the owner for a schedule of work to be done, as he travels frequently and is not always available to give workmen access to the premises.
The situation has now deteriorated and the reader is concerned about whether he will receive a refund of his deposit when he vacates the property, as the owner has sent him a quote for alleged repairs that is virtually equal to that amount.
This also seemed odd to him as he previously received correspondence from the landlord stating that there were just two minor items to be repaired.
Without access to the rental agreement between the reader and his landlord, there is no way of knowing the specific terms and conditions it contains, says Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth.
“We can, however, examine what the Rental Housing Act provides in this situation.”
Radue says the Act states that upon “the expiration of the lease the landlord and tenant must arrange a joint inspection of the dwelling at a mutually convenient time to take place within a period of three days prior to such expiration with a view to ascertaining if there was any damage caused to the dwelling during the tenant’s occupation”.
According to the reader’s explanation, it does not sound as if such an inspection has, in fact, taken place, says Radue.
“Therefore it’s not clear how the owner obtained a quote for the items that need fixing, as access to the premises is one of his ostensible problems with the reader.”
Radue says the Act further provides that the owner or landlord may apply the deposit “towards the payment of all amounts for which the tenant is liable under the said lease, including the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period and the cost of replacing lost keys”.
Radue says the balance of the deposit and interest, if any, must then be refunded to the tenant by the landlord not later than 14 days after he has vacated the property.
“Our reader also mentions that he has maintained the rental property for the duration of the nine-year lease period.”
In terms of most rental agreements, items that relate to wear and tear or maintenance are generally for the landlord’s account, says Radue.
“If payments have been made for items that were actually the duty of the landlord, the reader may have a set-off claim against the amount claimed at the expiry of the lease agreement.”
Alternatively, says Radue, he could claim unjustified enrichment.
“The reader should approach the Rental Housing Tribunal or an attorney for assistance should the parties not be able to resolve the dispute between them.”
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