As with many legal questions relating to property, there is no clear-cut answer that covers every scenario, but there are a few points that one should consider and that give a good overview of who might be responsible for what maintenance costs related to a rented property.
The first thing to note is that any details of responsibilities and obligations for both tenant and landlord should be clearly stated in the written lease agreement – this ensures that there is no ambiguity that can easily result in disputes. Because of the vast variety of types of properties, the maintenance requirements for each is likely to be quite different. If there are details relating to taking care of a particular property (for example, maintaining a garden or a balcony) these should be expressly included in the lease agreement.
However, there are a number of basics that apply to most situations. The overarching idea is that general maintenance related to the normal use of a property is covered by the owner of the property, while maintenance or repairs that are required due to misuse or negligence would need to be covered by the tenant.
By way of example, if the geyser needs replacing or a leak in the roof needs repairing, the owner is responsible for the related costs. But water damage as a result of leaving a faucet open would be considered negligence and therefore repair costs would be the tenant’s responsibility.
The tenant is also obligated, when moving out, to leave the property in the same state as it was in when occupation of the property was taken. This means that if a window is cracked or the floors scratched, these may need to be fixed at the tenant’s expense. For this reason, it is essential that the owner, landlord or letting agent performs a full property inspection along with the tenant when moving in to make a complete checklist of the current state of the property at the time. This will determine any damage that existed when the tenant moved in as well as any damage that was the tenant’s fault during their stay that requires fixing.
Bearing this in mind, painting would often be considered general maintenance of the property. However, if repainting is required due to damage caused by the tenant (for example, if the paintwork was scratched by moving furniture or hanging pictures, or the tenant painted the walls a different colour during their occupancy), the costs can be recouped from the tenant.
The best advice to avoid any disagreements regarding these situations is to make sure all these elements are discussed and included in the lease agreement prior to signing.
Written by Wessel de Kock