So you have found your ideal property to rent and are on the verge of signing a Tenancy Agreement (TA).
But before you do so, there is one important clause of the TA that should be perused very carefully.
This is the Damages and Repairs clause. It details who should bear the costs of repairs in the event of damage – as a result of wear and tear – during the course of your tenancy.
Damages could be anything from peeling paint and defective appliances to water leakage/seepage and cracks in the wall. Depending on your negotiations, either you or your landlord will have to shoulder the burden of repair.
Typically, if the damage is extensive – and expensive – the landlord will be responsible. And vice versa: if the damage is minor, you, the tenant, will be the one footing the bill. The threshold varies, but in Singapore, the amount is around $150 to $200.
Note that this clause does not cover damages caused by negligence (see list below). In such cases, it becomes your responsibility as tenant to cover the costs. Of course, the amount you have to foot depends on your arrangement – preexisting or otherwise – with your landlord.
If for some reason there is no such clause in the TA, do ask for it to be included. It will prevent any future misunderstandings between you and your landlord.
Damage to walls/ceilings/floors
Say you have the habit of moving furniture around, or like to personalise your space by putting up artwork or decorations.
Nothing wrong with that, until you accidentally punch a hole in the wall, rip part of the ceiling off (all too easy with false ceilings), or make a dint in the floor after dropping something heavy on it.
If that happens, assess the damage and see if you can make repairs yourself, such as filling in the hole in the wall with plaster. Or maybe a professional needs to be called in, say, if the affected surface is tile, wood, laminate or marble etc.
Faulty electrical appliances
Sometimes appliances break down for no apparent reason. Other times, they do so because of misuse – knowingly or unknowingly.
For example, you could have been using the wrong type of detergent in a washing machine without realising it. Detergents meant for top-loading machines produce more foam; if used in a front-loader, they could cause the foam to overflow and damage the machine.
Tenants have a right to live in a clean and healthy environment. And it is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the premises free from common household pests. An ant or cockroach infestation ought to be dealt with by your landlord.
But other critters that you may have introduced – such as fleas from your dog or bedbugs from your travels – fall under your charge.
If a water pipe bursts, your landlord must see to it that it gets fixed. Likewise if there is damage to floors, furniture or fixtures in the aftermath of a flood.
However, if the property sustains water damage from, say, an overflowing bathtub, dishwasher or washing machine, then the onus is on you to set things right.
Although the tendency is to think that older properties are more likely to succumb to plumbing defects, the reality is that all properties, new or old, are susceptible. Avoid using the vanity sink or bathtub for hair trims. Do not throw paper towels into the toilet. In fact, even an excess of toilet paper may cause clogs. And always keep a plunger and liquid drain cleaner handy.
Plumbing services are not terribly expensive, but plumbing works are generally messy jobs that require a fair bit of cleaning up afterwards. Plus, you do not want to deal with the hassle of using another sink or toilet in the interim.
In all the above-mentioned scenarios, it is best to document and report any damages to your landlord to prevent disputes.
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