Written for Property Poser

This week our Property Poser panel once again sheds light on the rights and responsibilities in the landlord-tenant relationship.

A reader explains that she moved into a flat and was required to pay a deposit of R2 000 into the landlord’s account. Some time later, she gave notice and subsequently vacated the flat.

Upon leaving, the reader was advised by the landlord that her satellite dish was not to be removed. He also informed her that he would use R500 of her deposit for repairs and painting.

The landlord also kept an additional R500 without providing a reason. Ultimately, he only repaid half of the reader’s original deposit and she would like to know what she is entitled to in this regard.

Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in Port Elizabeth says the Rental Housing Act provides the guidelines for determining what the rights and responsibilities of the parties to a lease agreement are.

“The reader says she asked the landlord for a written agreement on more than one occasion but never received it.”

Du Toit says the Act confirms that a rental agreement does not have to be in writing to be considered valid. “However, if the tenant requests a written agreement from the landlord, he or she is obliged to provide one.”

A written agreement simply makes it easier for both parties to know and understand their respective positions, says Du Toit.

“It would probably clarify the situation regarding improvements made to the property, such as the fitment of a satellite dish, and what happens to such improvements when the tenant’s lease ends.”
Upon expiration of the lease, Du Toit says the Act states that the parties must arrange for a joint inspection of the property, which should take place within three days prior to the termination date.

“This will allow them to ascertain what damage, if any, was caused while the property was occupied by the tenant.”

The landlord is then allowed to rectify any damages but, says Du Toit, has to provide the tenant with receipts if requested to do so.

This means that the reader can request a breakdown of the costs from her landlord, says Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in PE.

Vermaak says it is simply not acceptable for the landlord to keep a portion of the deposit without a justifiable expense having been incurred.

“The tenant’s rights are protected in the Act, which also provides that the parties may not waive these standard provisions in the contract.”

Regarding the issue of the initial deposit, says Vermaak, the Act states that a landlord is obliged to invest it in an interest-bearing account.

“After paying the deposit, the tenant can request proof that it was invested with a financial institution.”

The proceeds from this investment are to be repaid to the tenant at the termination of the lease, less any justifiable deductions, says Vermaak.

“In this instance, our reader can approach the Rental Housing Tribunal for help.”

Vermaak says the tribunal was established in terms of the Act as a specific forum for aggrieved parties to a lease agreement.

“A so-called unfair practice is defined as any act or omission by a landlord or tenant in contravention of the Act, or a practice which unreasonably prejudices the rights or interests of the relevant party.”

According to Vermaak, the reader also has the option of consulting an attorney who will address a demand to the landlord to provide the required information.

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