Crime is a huge issue in this country and everyone must take security precautions to ensure that they are adequately protected. When it comes to rental property, it can be difficult to clearly define who is responsible for what. Tenants tend to believe that all their safety and security needs should be handled by their landlord, but is this true?
The Rental Housing was established to regulate and protect the rights of tenants and landlords alike. The basic rights of the tenant include the right to privacy and that the landlord does not try to seize any of their possessions unless given a court order. The basic rights that the landlord has include regular and prompt rental payment, recovering the unpaid rental amount due through the Tribunal or court order, and claiming compensation for damage caused by a tenant or their visitor.
The Rental Housing Act states that the landlord offers tenants with a property that is reasonably fit for the purpose that it was let out for and that it is also habitable. However, are they also responsible for providing security measures such as burglar bars, security gates and alarms to their tenants.
It is right to assume that security is something that should be offered by the landlord, and at face value, this would include windows and doors that lock properly, burglar guards, a security gate and an alarm system. However, the law does not hold the landlord liable to do so unless they express that they will do that. In the event that a break-in were to occur they would not be liable as you cannot foresee criminal activities. Criminals have also become a lot smarter so these security measures are not enough to provide reasonable protection to tenants against break ins. It is also wise for the tenant to question whether the security measures offered on the property are enough for them before they choose to commit to a lease.
Landlords should strive to provide their tenants with a property that is well secured as they will be able to charge more for rent and it will also keep their tenants on the property for longer. It is difficult to say what the basic security requirements a property should have due to South Africa’s diverse properties. For example, in one area the minimum requirement would be a locking door as it would make a house “fit for purpose” and “habitable”, but in another more affluent area, the minimum requirement would be armed guards. It is important to note that implementing more security measures such as an alarm system, opening windows or doors and burglar bars does not only benefit the tenant but the landlord as well. The landlord will also pay less for their insurance premiums because of this.
It is the responsibility of the landlord to pay for any physical damages that occur during a break-in. This can be claimed from the landlord’s individual buildings insurance. In this case, the tenant is responsible for replacing any personal belongings that they lose, that is not the landlord’s responsibility. The tenant can take out home contents insurance to protect their belongings from burglaries, fires or floods.
When it comes to an alarm system, before signing the lease, the tenants should ensure that the alarm is in good working condition. They can consult with an alarm specialist and have it tested and assessed. If it is not working then it should be repaired before you move in. The landlord is responsible for offering an alarm system, but it does not have to be one that is top of the range, it just needs to be functioning. If the landlord promises to repair the current alarm system, but fails to do so then they will be liable to cover any losses that the tenant incurs due to their breach of security.
The tenant is well within their rights to make any adjustments to improve the property’s security. Before they choose to make these changes, they should negotiate the proposed security measures with the landlord. Some landlords will be willing to either cover some of the costs or allow the tenant to make any changes they feel necessary. The only condition to the second option is that the landlord would expect the tenant to restore the property to its former condition once the tenant chooses to vacate the property.
It would be wise for the tenant to discuss with their landlord the security measures that they need in place before they decide to sign the lease. They should include a clause that clearly stipulates the security responsibilities of the landlord because if the landlord fails to implement the measures, the tenant will be responsible for insuring their own goods on and in the property.
Once the tenant moves in, it is their responsibility to ensure that the property is secure at all times and that no damages happen to their goods or the property. If any damage occurs to the property due to the tenant’s negligence, they will be responsible for this and will have to cover the costs of the repairs.
Learn more on this by seeing Renters’ Security Checklist – 6 Items To Check Off Before Signing The Lease.