Written for YourProperty

A tenant has asked the Property Poser panel for guidance in retrieving her deposit, which the rental agency is withholding, despite her having paid the landlord directly in recent months.

It appears that the reader and her landlord became friends over time, then discovered that, despite her paying her rental promptly on the first of each month, the agency only paid it over to the landlord much later.

The tenant was subsequently advised by the agency that the rental should be paid directly to the landlord, which she did until deciding to vacate the property prematurely. This was done with the consent of the landlord, as a replacement tenant had been secured.

The reader’s problems started when she attempted to recover her deposit, paid at the inception of the lease, from the agency.

Despite the fact that the agency had not been acting for the landlord for some time, it still held the deposit and the landlord insisted that it was the reader’s responsibility to recover it.

After struggling to make contact with anyone at the agency, an employee there advised that the reader would be refunded 30 days from the date on which they were made aware of her move. Some time elapsed and no monies were paid to the reader.

She battled to get further clarification, and then received an e-mail from someone at the agency stating that they had spoken to the landlord and would get back to her regarding the refund date of her deposit. No one did and since then she has been unable to reach anyone at the agency.

The reader now asks for some advice as to what she could try next to recover her deposit.

It is quite usual for a deposit to be paid to a rental agency, says Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town.

“But it’s important to note that the deposit should be placed with a financial institution in an interest-bearing account for the benefit of the tenant.”

Van der Merwe says events seem to have taken their natural course as the rental agency was initially not advised of the early termination of the lease. “Upon hearing of this development, certain delays appear to have arisen.”

It is entirely possible that the agency felt obliged to make enquiries with its former client, the landlord, about the state of the property after the reader vacated it, says Van der Merwe.

According to Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth, the deposit is primarily held so that the landlord can, if necessary, use it for repairing damage to the property caused by a tenant.

“The reader should examine her lease agreement for any easily accessible and enforceable remedies regarding the repayment of her deposit.”

Another remedy may be found under the Rental Housing Act, says Radue, which provides that the deposit is to be refunded no longer than 21 days after the termination of the lease.

“Our reader could thus lodge a complaint with the tribunal, established under the Act, for the unfair practice which she currently seems to be the victim of.”

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