This week, the Property Poser panel assists a reader who has maintenance issues with the residential property she has been renting for about a year.
When the tenant took occupation of the property no inspection was done in her presence, but she duly completed a checklist and sent it to the estate agent dealing with the rental.
The reader noted several issues with the property, including rising damp in one of the bedrooms, problems with the electrical wiring, broken toilet seats, a leaking pool and rubble to be removed from the garden.
The rising damp was one of the biggest issues as it caused black mould, resulting in the bedroom not being fit for occupation. It has since spread to the passage cupboard and also a second room which is now also unusable.
The tenant reports that the dampness has also ruined household items such as bedding, a sound system, DVD player and television set.
She says that complaints to the agent about the abovementioned issues have gone without action to fix them.
When the electrical problems were experienced, the reader paid for the repairs herself and all communication to the agent went unanswered.
The same thing happened with the removal of the rubble; when the agent failed to have it removed, the tenant organised and paid for this to be done. The agent then informed her that since she had willingly done so, she would have no claim for the costs incurred.
The reader is now frustrated with the lack of action on the side of the agent and feels that the landlord is not truly aware of the severity of the issues experienced.
Also, the expenses she has incurred, together with the fact that she is only able to use a much smaller portion of the property than what she initially agreed to rent, is making the whole situation untenable.
According to Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth, the basic assumption underpinning any rental agreement is that a certain rental has been agreed upon for a property with particular characteristics.
“The landlord’s obligations therefore include making available the use and enjoyment of the whole property to the tenant.”
Vermaak says he or she must place and maintain the property in the condition agreed upon or at least in a condition reasonably fit for the purpose for which it is let.
“A reduction in rental may well be addressed in the lease due the reduced enjoyment of the property.”
Should the reader feel that the agent is not presenting the situation in the correct light, it is perhaps time to communicate with the landlord directly, says Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in PE.
“She may choose to put the landlord on terms to fix any problems that have not yet been addressed.”
If the landlord does not perform properly, the reader has the option of cancelling the lease, says Du Toit.
“She would then have to proceed to claim any expenses incurred with regard to fixing items, directly from the landlord.”
Du Toit says the reader should also seek further legal advice as to what action she may be able to take under the Rental Housing Act.
To ask a property related question, visit www.propertyposer.co.za.