Monday, October 22

Landlords might have to install water tanks

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Although landlords are required to ensure their tenant enjoys an uninterrupted water supply, it is the state’s responsibility to supply water.

Landlords may be obliged to install rainwater tanks for their tenants if the government is unable to provide an uninterrupted water supply.

This could come about if standard lease agreements do not have an exclusion clause, says Johan van Bosch, principal estate agent at Just Property Claremont.

Although landlords are required to ensure their tenant enjoys an uninterrupted water supply, it is the state’s responsibility to supply water. If it is unable to do this, the landlord cannot be held responsibility, Van Bosch says.

But, if the lease stipulates the landlord will ensure a continuous supply of water, they will have to look at installing rainwater tanks for their tenants.

“Most leases were drawn up prior to the current level of the drought,” Van Bosch says. However, since residential leases are normally valid for 12 months, he expects to see parties inserting clauses in new leases to deal with this issue.

In cases where tenants themselves pay for the installation of water tanks, they can take them with them when they move.

“A rainwater tank is normally placed on a flat surface and the weight of the water acts as an anchor.

“In theory the tenant should be able to remove the tank once empty, but this will require the tenant to remedy the area and remove all subsequent piping.

“However, if the piping from the tank is integrated with the existing system to the house, the whole rainwater tank and piping will be deemed a fixture.”

Van Bosch advises tenants to obtain permission from their landlord before putting in a tank. All agreements should ideally be in writing and possibly made an addendum to the lease. 

Body corporates and homeowners’ associations are also obliged to encourage water saving and, where possible, install sub-meters to monitor use by individual units, says the City of Cape Town.

Despite this, if it is found that tenants are exceeding their stipulated daily water amounts, Caleb Jones from global law firm Norton Rose Fullbright says landlords or body corporates may not cut the tenant’s water supply. They can, however, take other action against such tenants.

It is clear water will continue to be a scarce resource for years to come, and Paul Stevens, chief executive of Just Property, says this should be kept in mind when drawing up new leases.

“Consider reaching an agreement about who is responsible for what when it comes to drought.

“Make sure there is complete understanding regarding what constitutes a fixture that remains when the tenant leaves, and what the tenant may take with them. 
“I highly recommend added addendums that clearly spell out each party’s responsibility in the lease.”

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