Good afternoon. Apologies for the long message. I would like to ask your advice on a problem I have with my letting agent in South Africa. I own a property in Cape Town and it is currently rented out. I live in the UK. In November 2010, the geyser (hot water boiler) in the ceiling, had a leaking problem. The letting agent emailed me to inform me about the problem and asked if they should send out a plumber. I gave them the go ahead to send out a plumber. Two days later they sent me another email to tell me when the plumber arrived at the property, the geyser had burst and they had to replace the geyser, attaching an invoice of 6000,00 Rand (+/-£530) to be paid. The letting agents plumber also discarded from the geyser, and I had no proof of the old geyser being replaced. I have insurance on the house which pays of issues such as burst geysers. However as the old geyser which was in the house, was only replaced in 2007, it was still under guarantee. When I contacted the insurance company, they informed me that they would have replaced the broken geyser as it was still under guarantee, but because we did not inform them about the burst geyser before it was replaced, that they would not be held liable as we (letting agent) had taken things in our own hands. There was also no proof of the geyser being replaced - only the plumber's word.I then informed the letting agent that due to them not following the correct procedures in informing me about the burst geyser, I did not feel that I should pay for replacing the geyser. (had they informed me that the geyser had burst, I could have contacted the insurance company and they would have replaced the old one without costs).I did not hear anything from them until middle January 2011, where they informed me that they will be deducting the cost of replacing the geyser from the rental money owed to me by the tenant. I instructed them not to do so, however they still deducted half the cost at the end of January. I contacted the agency again to complain about them going ahead with the deduction without our mandate for doing so and that they need to refund the money. The agent told me that they will be discussing the matter with the owner of the agency and will get back to me. I then received an email stating that after the matter was discussed with the owner, that the matter is deemed closed. I then emailed them to ask if we will be getting the money back which was deducted. They informed me that they would not refund us that money. That was a week and a half ago.Today I received a statement showing that the other half of the money was deducted from this month's rent money. When I contacted them telling them that I thought the matter was deemed closed, and that they had misled me in their previous email, I did not received a satisfactory answer. Could you please advise me on how I could go about in sorting this matter, as I feel it not fair having to pay for their mishandling of the matter in the first place.Thank you very much for your time.Johan Snyders
Province/Country relating to question : Cape Town South Africa
I just contacted the letting agency
Welcome, and thank you for your question.It seems that the letting agent and/or plumber acted without a mandate from you when they replaced the geyser. Ideally, they should have reported back to you first.However, one has to consider a number of things. Firstly, whether or not they did not perhaps have a mandate to act on your behalf in terms of the initial mandate you gave them to let out the property. Often, letting agencies make you sign an agreement setting out their rights and duties. Such a written agreement usually provides for quite wide authority to the agency. Therefore, much will depend on whether you have such an agreement and what the contents thereof is.Secondly, one would expect persons who are in this line of business to know that geysers are often covered by insurance policies and they cannot just go ahead without clearing it with the insurers.To take this matter futher, you have a number of options: You can appeal against the insurance company's repudiation. Sometimes, the reconsider. You terminate the agency's mandate and sue them for the damage that you have suffered as a result of their handling of the situation. Finally, the conduct of letting agencies are also governed by the Estate Agency Affairs Board, in terms of the relevant legislations. You would therefore be able to lodge a complaint with the EAAB.I trust you find the above in order.Yours faithfully,
B.Comm; LL.B; LL.M.
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