Question posted in the Property Law category relating to Eastern Cape
Question value: R 250.00
My name is Nicky and I am writing on behalf of my parents. I am currently living in the UK and not familiar with South African leasing property law at all and looking for some advise.
My 76 year old parents have been renting a property in Port Elizabeth for 12 years. The owner all of a sudden decided to sell and my parents have had to move out in a hurry causing much distress to them and our family. There have been a few maintenance and upkeep issues that have come up, kitchen cupboard door damamged by water needs replacing - landlord has decided to replace the WHOLE kitchen unit... cost towards my parents. Painting of all interior walls, fair enough, although after 10 years he should have done this himself. This is a standard practice in the retirement village apparently.
Lastly after agreeing all was okay, he has now come back and said he is not happy with a small stain on one of the carpets in the bedroom. He is now insisiting they replace all the carpets in the whole house at their cost. Surely they are only liable for the one carpet that is damamged and not the entire house?
All we are looking for is advise on whether my parents are liable for replacing all the carpets in the entire house or just the one they have damaged. According to my dad, the leasing contract signed 12 years ago only stated "leave the property as you found it" This leaves a lot up to interpretation - unfortunatly not in favour of my parents.
They are honourable people and we feel that their landlord is now being spiteful as he did not except them to move so quickly when he said he had decided to sell. Sadly he has been saying the most unkind things to my poor parents, but that is another matter.
Any advise you could please offer me on the carpet issue and what property laws are like in South Africa, would be greatly appreciated.
Answer to the Question
Hi there and thank you for your question,
My first issue is one of interpretation regarding the clause "leave the property as you found it". Typically, it all comes down to what the original intention was of the parties in relation to the clause. Also, typically there is an understanding that "fair wear and tear is excluded".
That means that the landlord can't expect new hinges on cupboard doors; all the doors to be painted; ceiling to be painted; wooden floors to be sanded and varnished; carpets to be left looking brand new.
The landlord can demand that carpets be cleaned by a professional carpet cleaning company, but there is a limit and it sounds to me as if this limit has been reached.
Furthermore, if your parents and the landlord reached an agreement, THAT is the end of the matter. Surely that agreement was reached in full and final settlement of their staying at the property. The landlord has therefore lost the opportunity to "come back for a second bite" at the apple.
That should be your parent's first defence. We reached a settlement. You can't come back a second time.
The second defence is that the landlord is being unreasonable demanding new carpets throughout the whole house. Your parents must NOT agree to that.
Similar thing with the kitchen cupboard doors. If one is damaged, it should be replaced with the same/similar door. You can't expect to replace the whole kitchen unit. That's definitely a no-no.
Your parents should write back to the ex-landlord and tell him to get lost. Tell him that it was NEVER their intention that all of these things should be replaced to the degree that he wants.
Then, if he won't accept that, and he issues a summons, your parents should hire a lawyer to assist in defending the claim. I can't refer you to a specific lawyer, but I can direct you to www.southafricanlawyer.co.za, where you can find a list of qualified lawyers in your area who will be able to assist you further!
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