3 ways to minimise landlord-tenant disputes

Before any handover occurs, make sure all parties are clear on the conditions of the tenancy agreement. (Envato Elements pic)

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Landlord-tenant disputes can be uncomfortable and time-consuming. According to the proposed survey and drafting of the Residential Tenancy Act, key causes of such disputes include damage to the rental unit and/or its furnishings, as well as unpermitted modifications.

Here are some approaches to minimise potential conflict between landlords and renters.

1. Prepare a full inventory

A complete inventory is vital to provide a written record of the landlord’s belongings. This protects both parties in the event of theft or damage, and/or against false claims at the end of the tenancy.

An inventory list should be detailed and segmented for each living space. It should include:

  • hard furnishings such as dining tables, beds, chairs, sofas, televisions, stereo equipment, refrigerators, air conditioners, and other household appliances;
  • soft furnishings like blinds, curtains, bed sheets, mattress protectors, and chair coverings;
  • decorative items including wall art, potted plants and ornaments;
  • permanent fixtures such as fans and lighting; and
  • water and electricity meter readings.

Inventory and maintenance checklists should accompany every agreement. (Envato Elements pic)

Keep detailed records of the brands and model numbers of all household appliances to avoid high-value items like big-screen televisions and washing machines being replaced with similar but inferior versions.

In the event of an electrical malfunction, landlords should have the necessary details to facilitate quick inspections and repairs.

Landlords or their appointed agents should also inspect all appliances on the day the tenancy agreement is signed, to ensure they are in good working order.

2. Take photos

Printed images of the inventory are rarely included but are highly recommended. These supplement inventory lists and help protect both tenants and landlords.

A copy of the images, inventory lists, and tenancy agreement should be shared between all parties for mutual reference.

Some units may be rented out “as is” with existing scratches and damage, so be sure to include images of the floors, walls and ceiling to highlight any pre-existing defects before handover.

Even if a rental property is rented out without any flaws, photos remove all doubt of the initial condition of the unit.

Adding images to your checklists minimises potential disputes and liability. (Envato Elements pic)

With both parties having access to admissible evidence, landlords cannot unfairly deduct tenants’ deposits. Compiling these images might be cumbersome but is certainly worth the effort to minimise disputes or liability.

3. Make a maintenance checklist

Regular maintenance and upkeep are necessary to prevent damage or malfunction. Tasks are often split between the tenant and landlord, and a maintenance checklist helps clearly outline each party’s responsibilities.

A tenant’s responsibilities could include servicing the air-conditioners every six months, maintaining the condition of all electrical appliances, and cleaning the drainage in the shower and kitchen to avoid clogs.

Landlords are usually responsible for larger plumbing and electrical issues, as well as repair of household appliances in a furnished unit, unless the issues arise as a result of the tenant’s negligence.

A signed maintenance checklist clearly defines the responsibilities agreed upon by renter and landlord. In a worst-case scenario, both parties can refer to it to de-escalate disputes, offer resolutions, and ensure their rights are protected.

This article was written by Vigneswar Rajasurian of PropertyAdvisor.my, Malaysia’s most comprehensive source of property data, property analytics and insights.

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