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Friday Oct 19, 2018

Be prepared and budget for rental repairs

No matter how carefully they are chosen to be “low maintenance” or inspected by both tenant and landlord, rental properties – like other homes – will require some upkeep and, from time to time, some repairs.

Landlords need to remember this and accept the fact that there are times they will have to pay someone to repair a fault or replace something broken. And that is much easier if they allow for it when calculating the expected net returns from their buy-to-let investments, says Tobie Fourie, national rentals manager for the Chas Everitt International property group.

The generally accepted amount to set aside for maintenance and repairs is between 1% and 3% of the property’s value per year. So on a R1m property, for example, the amount would be at least R10 000, which can be put into a savings or money market account to earn interest until it is needed – as long as it is easily accessible.

He says that tenants also need to be reasonable, however, and not assume that their landlord is going to pay for every bit of wear and tear on the property while they live there, or call him about every little thing that goes wrong – especially if they have done the damage themselves.

They need to be prepared to keep the garden tidy, for example, and to clean the pool, clean up the oil their car leaked on the driveway and replace anything they break, at their own cost.

The lease agreement should of course make it very clear who is responsible for what, says Fourie, but common sense should also prevail on both sides. “If the geyser bursts, for example, or the stove stops working, it isn’t fair for the landlord to make tenants wait days for it to be replaced or repaired.

On the other hand, tenants should never just go ahead with a big repair and then try to spring the bill on the landlord – or threaten to take the amount out of the next month’s rent. For one thing, the landlord or his agent might have dedicated repair and maintenance crew that could have done the work more cheaply. And for another, no-one likes to suddenly receive a big account for unauthorised expenditure.

As with most things, the relationship between landlord and tenant is a two-way street and open communication makes it better, he says.

Tenants who constantly ask the landlord to mend small things may find it difficult to get him to attend to bigger problems. Those who do their part to maintain the property in good condition may well find, however, that he is on their side when it is time to negotiate the rent increase.

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