Written for Property Poser
Another unhappy tenant has contacted our Property Poser expert regarding her rented abode, which appears to be in rather a sorry damp state.
The reader writes that the property was in a very good condition when she first moved in.
However, there is an enclosed veranda that becomes very damp when it rains, as there is no proper drainage for the rainwater. It appears that the dampness has now spread and also affects the walls of the spare bedroom.
Following discussions with the tenant, the landlord broke down the built-in cupboard in that room, presumably to access the affected areas.
Since then, he has neither fixed the damp problem nor replaced the cupboard in the spare bedroom, despite the reader asking very nicely that he do so.
She requested that he start by fixing the dampness from the outside and he duly employed someone to sand down the exterior walls.
According to the reader, that is where the process began and ended; nothing else was done in an effort to complete the repairs.
She is thus stuck with an ongoing damp problem and without any cupboards in the spare bedroom, even though there were cupboards when she moved into the property.
The dampness is also causing an issue with mould and the reader’s personal possessions stored in the damp cupboards are being damaged.
Notwithstanding the potential damage to goods, this may result in an unhealthy environment for the occupants of the dwelling.
We are not told whether there was any sign of dampness before the tenant moved in or whether a proper inspection was held to determine the state of the leased premises, says Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth.
“However, it appears now that the water and dampness is causing such a problem that at least a portion of the property can’t be used by the tenant and that she has one less cupboard than when she moved in.”
One of the landlord’s duties is to provide a property that is fit for the purpose for which it is rented out, says Radue.
“In this instance the spare bedroom doesn’t seem to adhere to this requirement. There may also be other areas that are negatively affected by the damp problem.”
Radue says the tenant should begin by examining the lease agreement to determine what remedy, if any, is available to her.
According to him, she may have the right to place the landlord on terms to fulfil his side of the agreement.
“Should he continue to fail to do so, she could cancel the lease agreement.”
It is often the case though that a tenant does not necessarily wish to cancel the lease agreement, says Radue.
“In such instances there remains the option of fixing the damp problem herself and claiming compensation from the landlord.”
He says this may be a tricky process and the reader should carefully consider whether it is worth proceeding in this manner.
“The regulations to the Rental Housing Act provide that a rented premises should be habitable at the inception of the lease and should also be maintained to remain so throughout the lease period.”
The reader could thus, under the regulations, require the repairs to be effected within 14 days or another mutually agreed period, says Radue.
“She could refer the matter on to the tribunal under the Act as an unfair practice should the repairs not be effected in time.”
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