Rights of the Landlord

Consider the Scenario

You are a landlord whom is seeking to, or currently renting out your property. Below are some questions, dos and don’ts as well as misconceptions.

Questions:

1. 

a. What is expected from your side as regards to maintenance?

i. The Rental Housing Act is clear that “the landlord must let a dwelling which at the commencement of the lease is in a condition reasonably fit for the purpose for which it is let and keep and maintain the dwelling in compliance with all the ordinances, health or safety regulations or any other law”. It is thus the landlord’s responsibility to ensure everything is in a good working condition;

ii. In situations with wear-and-tear, such as carpets for example, the landlord needs to take steps to replace such an item. Steam cleaning such a carpet for example, to maintain it whilst in use, is the responsibility of the tenant;

iii. It is always safer to specify exactly what is expected of the tenant in the lease, such as a clause specifying that the tenant will be responsible for certain items and the landlord for others;

2.

a. What are your rights, should the tenants leave a place dirty/damaged?

i. In terms of the Rental Housing Act, you have the right to use the tenants deposit for any repairs which need to be carried out on the property which are not due to the general wear-and-tear of the property. The remainder plus interest, remains payable to the tenant;

ii. In the event that a tenant grossly neglects the property and the deposit is not sufficient, you as the landlord may bring a civil claim against the tenant for the damage to the property;

3.

a.  What are your rights/responsibilities in the event that a tenant is behind on rent?

i. Should your tenant default on rental payment, it is the discretion of the landlord as to whether a payment arrangement can be entered into, however usually the lease will dictate the steps to take in such a situation. As such it is difficult to provide advice in such a situation as each case should be assessed on its own merits. We advise arranging a consultation with an attorney;

ii. Any other breach of the lease agreement by either yourself or the tenant will have to be assessed on its own merits depending on what the lease agreement says.

Misconceptions:

1. 

a. If the landlord or their representative doesn’t conduct an outgoing inspection, they forfeit the right to deduct any damages from the tenant’s deposit, and must refund the tenant within seven days.

i. This is indeed correct. The landlord is responsible to conduct an outgoing inspection and may not otherwise withhold a tenant’s deposit even if it is found that damage took place after the lease has ended.

2.

a. A tenant’s deposit can be used during the lease.

i. This is not correct. As a rule, the deposit should and cannot be used during the period of the lease and should be reserved for damages to the property after the exit inspection is done.

3.

a. Contract must be in writing

i. A lease does not have to be in writing, however, should disputes arise between a landlord and tenant, it is always easier to refer to a written and signed lease for clarity. It is thus advisable to reduce a lease agreement to writing.

Final Word

Should you find yourself in any situation in which you are not sure, it is always safer to obtain sound assistance from a qualified attorney. Lease agreements can be complex and difficult to understand, feel free to contact us to set up a consultation so we may assist you with any lease dispute or merely for assistance in understanding your rights and responsibilities more clearly.