Disagreements over security deposits are probably the biggest cause of friction between landlords and their tenants – but they don’t have to be if both parties just follow some basic guidelines.
So says Greg Harris, CEO of Chas Everitt Property Rentals, who notes: “The deposit is supposed to protect the landlord against any damage the tenant may do to the property during the term of the lease, and against loss of rent or municipal service charges if the tenant defaults.
“On the other hand, if you’re a tenant who always pays your rent on time and keeps the property clean and in good condition, you should be able to count on getting your whole deposit back at the end of your lease. And, of course, you should not be penalised for any damage done by a previous tenant.
“But all too often things don’t work out this way, suggesting that both parties need to pay more careful attention to the condition of the property and the terms of the agreement before the lease is signed.”
As a start, he says, the Rental Housing Act stipulates that the landlord and prospective tenant must conduct an “ingoing” inspection together before the tenant takes occupation of the property, to establish and document any pre-existing damage so that the tenant cannot be charged for this at a later stage.
“The RHA also says that an “outgoing” inspection must be held within three days of the tenant moving out for any reason, and it is obviously also better if this is done jointly. But in practice it often happens that the tenant is not present, and this makes it all the more important that the initial (ingoing) inspection is done thoroughly.”
Harris says areas for particularly close attention should include:
Door locks - Do they turn easily, have they been replaced since the last tenant left and do they all have keys?
Windows – Do they all close properly and have all their handles and slides? Are there any cracked panes? Do they all have burglar bars where necessary?
Walls - Are they marked, scratched or cracked? Is the paintwork clean and neat?
Ceilings – Are they level? Are there signs of a leaking roof or geyser?
Plumbing - Are the taps all working? Are there any drips or leaks (check under the kitchen sink) and are the drains clear?
Wall and floor tiles - Are they all firmly in place and undamaged? If there are skirting boards, are they all in place?
Carpets - Are they torn, frayed, burned or stained anywhere?
Security – If there are electric gates or access doors, do they all work? Are all the remote controls available?
Cleanliness – Is the stove clean? Are the toilets unstained? Is there any mould in the shower?
“If all these details are carefully noted and if possible photographed, and the list is then signed by the tenant and the landlord and attached to the lease, there should be little room for any disagreement later.”
Nevertheless, he says, it will make things much easier if the landlord appoints an agent from a reputable rental management company such as Chas Everitt Property Rentals who is experienced at doing these inspections and unlikely to overlook anything that might cause a problem in future.
“In addition landlords must make sure their managing agent is registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board, otherwise they run the risk of the agent absconding with their tenants’ deposits and having to repay these and any interest due out of their own pockets at the end of the lease."
At Chas Everitt Property Rentals, we make sure all our agents are registered and have their Fidelity Fund Certificates so our clients have peace of mind on this issue.”
*For more rental property news and advice for landlords and tenants, visit Chas Everitt Property Rentals on www.lighthouse.co.za