There is often considerable friction between an outgoing tenant and their landlord (or more specifically, the estate agent acting for the landlord). The friction usually arises around issues relating to the deposit refund, and the liability the tenant has to address issues that need attention at the property.
First off, an inspection of the property with the tenant and the agent is required when the tenant first moves in. Any existing property damage is noted on the inspection, which is signed off by both parties. This protects the tenant from inheriting existing problems. If such a list does not exist, the tenant will need to prove that the problems existed prior to his lease – and the onus will rest on him.
During the lease period, as soon as any problems on the property arise that are related to fair wear and tear, or that result from storm damage, it’s imperative to report these to the landlord or rental agency immediately. Ensure you have proof that you did so by way of an email, not just a telephone conversation.
There should be mid-term rental inspections carried out during the period of the lease. Check with your rental agent when these are due and make sure you are present. The landlord or their agent will point out any damage that you are liable for. Take note of this and ensure you address the issues in good time.
Prior to your lease expiring an inspection will also be conducted with your landlord or the agent. You will be informed of issues you need to attend to, which could include the garden and the swimming pool if there is one. If you are liable for any damage then ensure you rectify the necessary before you move out and document what you do.
Once you have vacated the property a final inspection will be done. If you have already addressed all the problems previously brought to your attention then this inspection should be a formality and your deposit will be refunded to you promptly. Be sure to take a reading of the electricity and water meter, and settle any outstanding municipal debt.
As a general rule, if you have a dispute with the landlord then you need to address it at the time it is raised. Don’t ignore it thinking that the problem will go away – or that it will resolve itself. The fact is that as the tenant you are responsible for returning the property in the same or better condition that you received it – with the exception of “fair wear and tear” – being the usual maintenance issues that the landlord is liable for.
Both the tenant and the landlord have obligations in terms of the lease. Where both parties honor these obligations there is very little potential for problems. When making repairs to damage you have caused, have them properly done or else you will need to redo them, and document everything. This reduces potential disagreements.