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Landlady trying to renovate at my expense, I think

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Landlady trying to renovate at my expense, I think

Postby Caroline_B » Sat May 31, 2008 4:24 pm

Hi
I live in Cape Town, South Africa, where we have no facilities like this, realise the laws will be different and will be consulting an attorney here, but would just like to get an opinion on the problem I'm having to see whether I'm out of line or whether I need to take action: (long - sorry)

I rented a house in Cape Town in 2004 (4 years ago) as I own property which is too far out to commute. The place was in good condition but had been rented out before - carpets were good synthetics but not perfectly clean, doors were in good condition but very cheap soft chipboard, garden had been more or less trashed by previous tenant so there were a few shrubs but no herbaceous borders. I would estimate all fittings were at least 7 or 8 years old.

I have big dogs and we agreed up front that I could keep them there (they're very necessary for personal security as well as being my babies! :D ).

While in the house I added a lot of big structural plants to the garden, some of which still need to mature. Have paid rent and water religiously. The dogs did some damage - scratches to doors, lifted a corner of one of the carpets, ran some tracks in the lawn. The carpets generally clean up very well, and my handyman and I have worked out how to treat the doors to restore them to looking good with the scratches being invisible.

Recently I bought nearer town and gave notice. When I first told my landlady I had bought and woudl be leaving, I asked whether she was going to rent again and she said no, she thought they would sell. When I actually gave notice, I told her I was going to clean up and paint etc, and she said her daughter, who manages the property for her - let's call her Oona - insisted on seeing the property before I had done anything to it, including cleaning. (At this point I should have smelt a rat but didn't).

Anyway, Oona went round, saw it at its dirty worst, emailed me, said the property was in an appalling condition, all carpets would have to be replaced, damaged doors and doorframes would have to be replaced, garden was "a disgrace" (it is far better stocked than when I moved in), and said she would not accept any unsupervised work and would get quotes from contractors and all work would have to be signed off by her husband (who is a builder), and that I was not to start any work on the place. I replied to say I understood her concerns but felt that it was unreasonable to insist on replacing everything without even making an attempt to clean and repair, and also said I would not commit to a renovation process over which I had no financial control. I haven't had a response.

My plan was to:
    get professional carpet cleaners in
    get a carpet fitter in to ensure that carpet repairs were done properly
    replace carpet in one room if necessary
    sand, stain and varnish doors according to the formula my handyman and I have worked out
    service the blinds (verticals) and replace one which is damaged
    make sure the garden was tidied


I am now not allowed to do any of this but am supposed to accept whatever quotes she comes up with, for whatever work she sees fit to do, whether it is necessary or not. Obviously as the owner she has a right to make sure the work is done to a standard acceptable to her, but as the tenant surely I also have a right to ensure that I am not ripped off and that unnecessary work is not done at my expense.

My impression is frankly that she wants the house in show-house condition and thinks she can do it at my expense. I have no problem with making good whatever damage I've caused, but I have a big problem with being hit with bills for new carpets, doors etc when they were not new in the first place, and when the replacements may well be unnecessary. I also have a big problem with not being permitted to go ahead and make good myself, and to keep my costs low by getting my own quotes and using people of my choice provided the standard is reasonable.

My feeling is that if she has refused to allow me to make good then my obligation is at an end, but I would very much apreciate an opinion.
Caroline
"With reasonable men I will reason;
With humane men I will plead;
But to tyrants I will give no quarter"
- William Lloyd Garrison
Caroline_B
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 2:35 pm
Location: CT

An Opinion

Postby Emeraldstar » Sun Jun 01, 2008 1:19 am

Hi All
I would take dated photos of all the interior and exterior. This would be your insurance towards a reasonable negotiation should the estimates be rediculous. Since your obtaining legal advisement, you would have confirmation of the conditions to ensure your best interests. Good Luck
Emeraldstar
 
Posts: 967
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:01 am

thanks for response

Postby Caroline_B » Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:28 pm

Hi Emeraldstar, many thanks for taking the time to respond :) . I take your point but think the problem with photographing is that the issue is not how bad the damage is, but whether we attempt to repair or start by replacing, and also obviously whether if she replaces she's entitled to charge for new fittings. I had another email from her in which she reiterated that in her opinion the carpets could not be repaired, and she also insists that the doors cannot be revarnished to disguise scratches (I've done this several times successfully). So she intends to replace all the carpets and several doors without any attempt at repair, and "will not compromise on the quality of the repairs" (her phrase), so I assume she intends to replace with new carpets and doors. She also says she insists on restoring the house to its original condition, i.e. she is ignoring wear and tear although I've been in the house for 4 years and the fittings weren't new when I moved in. I'm now permitted to continue cleaning and painting (but not repairing), and all new fittings while also require painting and varnishing (also at my expense).

Oh, and she expects me to continue to pay rent while all this is happening (!) as she can't let the house until it's all done, although I gave her the required notice in writing.

I've discovered that the rent act here compels the landlord to put the security deposit in an interest-bearing account, with the interest going to to the tenant when the deposit is returned - I doubt very much if they've done this but would imagine that with competent cleaners and repairers in, the deposit plus 4 years worth of interest would easily cover the cost of repairs. But I'm being allowed to exercise this option.

Oh well, time for the lawyer! Thanks again.

Caroline
Caroline
"With reasonable men I will reason;
With humane men I will plead;
But to tyrants I will give no quarter"
- William Lloyd Garrison
Caroline_B
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 2:35 pm
Location: CT


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