Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Landlord Comes Up With A Surprise

Hello Mr Darroll

Jackie Cameron here from Realestateweb. We're wondering whether you would like to comment on a reader question for our regular Realestateweb mailbox article?

Here is the question:

I have just moved into a garden cottage and do not have a written lease agreement with my landlord. After taking occupancy, I was advised by the landlord that planting up & maintaining the garden was my responsibility, as well as watering of the garden and the cost of the watering (I pay extra for water every month and have to use the tap in my cottage to water the plants). Does this sound like something that the landlord can insist upon, as I was under the impression that the interior of the cottage was my responsibility and the exterior was his? (Note: the garden I am “responsible” for is a small, fenced-off section around the front of the cottage).


Dear Jackie, Here is the answer to your reader’s question:

The terms and conditions of your lease are contained in the agreement between you and your landlord which would have been entered into before you took occupation of the premises. It is undesirable to have a verbal agreement as the terms and conditions of the lease then depend on what you and the landlord respectively consider to be such terms and not on a written contract where the terms are stated and cannot be disputed (unless they are ambiguous). In terms of section 5(2) of the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999, your landlord must, if you ask him, reduce the lease to writing. This should ideally have been done before you moved in. If you try to do this now, chances are that he will include a provision that you are responsible for the garden.

With things as they are at present, the landlord may not unilaterally impose additional terms on you after the terms and conditions of the lease have been agreed to. The landlord may not therefore insist that you water the garden and pay the cost of doing so.

The principle that you are responsible for the interior of the cottage and the landlord responsible for the exterior is a general one that is usually included in written contracts. There is an obligation on the landlord to make the leased property available in a condition reasonably fit for the purpose for which it is being let. The landlord can specifically contract out of maintaining the property or specify that the tenant is responsible for paying levies or taxes as additional charges. However if the contract is silent on these matters it is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the property and pay the taxes.

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