Landlord under fire for ignoring tenants’ concerns

HEALTH HAZARD: Mould spores and mushrooms can be seen growing as a result of damp in Chari Bezuidenhout’s rented house. Picture: SUPPLIED

Chiselhurst resident Chari Bezuidenhout and her family are suffering health problems caused by mould plaguing the home she is renting, however, reports to her landlord have yielded no assistance.

Bezuidenhout has been living in the house on Phillip Frame Road for six years and has experienced multiple maintenance issues.

“When we first noticed the mould problem, I immediately notified our landlord. He said he would have it looked at, but that never happened.

“I kept sending him messages, photos and videos but he didn’t respond.

“My family is now getting sick. The doctor has confirmed that the sickness is caused by mould. The smell is also quite strong inside the house.

“When my landlord failed to assist, I paid for a company to assess the building. They found traces of mould in each of the rooms of the house. I showed this to my landlord but he still didn’t take the matter seriously.”

WhatsApp messages between Bezuidenhout and her landlord confirm that she has reported concerns since 2020.

When approached, Bezuidenhout’s landlord refused to answer questions.

The Rental Housing Tribunal, an independent body that resolves disputes between landlords and tenants, cites lack of maintenance as unfairly prejudiced behaviour.

According to the tribunal, the tenant has the responsibility to notify the landlord, as soon as possible after discovery, of any damage to the premises, or of the need for repairs.

The landlord has the responsibility to provide and maintain the premises and comply with all health and safety requirements.

When questioned on this, Bezuidenhout’s landlord insisted he had sent someone out to assess the mould. He added, “I think she should also be responsible for keeping the place free from mould by maybe opening the windows more.”

Left with no alternative, Bezuidenhout will be vacating at the end of April.

According to legal experts from Your Property SA, there are options for tenants.

“The lease should be examined for any remedy and as the first step in a conflict between the tenant and the landlord.

“The Rental Housing Act makes reference to ‘habitability’, which includes the protection of the health of the inhabitants. The dampness and mould could constitute a health risk.

“The tenant could thus request the reimbursement of monies spent in carrying out the repairs that should have been affected by the landlord.

“A reduction in the rental could also be appropriate.

“It would not be advisable to withhold rent to force the landlord to carry out repairs as this could lead to a situation where the landlord takes legal steps for the recovery of the rent and possibly eviction.”

Real estate appraiser Penny Lindstrom says that every landlord has a duty and responsibility towards tenants once an agreement has been made.

“It is the landlord’s responsibility to take care of maintenance in a building that he or she rents out. In a situation where mould has caused health problems, the landlord should have made arrangements as soon as he was made aware of it,” said Lindstrom.


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