Written for YourProperty

A tenant has approached the Property Poser experts about how to deal with a particularly difficult and unjust landlord.

The reader explains that her problems began shortly after taking occupation of the rental property in February this year.

It seems that the landlord presented her with a lease agreement for her to sign but the agreement was defective. It stated that the reader would pay no deposit when, in actual fact, she had paid a deposit commensurate with a month’s rental.

At the landlord’s request, the deposit was paid to the previous tenant, presumably to repay that tenant’s deposit on his behalf. The previous tenant acknowledged receipt of this payment.

When the reader reminded the landlord of the direct payment, he undertook to correct the lease but this was never done.

The situation outlined by the reader is clearly in contravention of the Rental Housing Act, says Schalk van der Merwe from Rawson Properties in Somerset West, Cape Town.

“The Act requires the landlord to accept the deposit from the tenant and hold it in an interest-bearing account for the tenant’s benefit.”

Van der Merwe says the deposit should then be refunded with interest at the termination of the lease.

“The reader acknowledges that she paid her rental late on one occasion but paid an additional 10 per cent penalty, despite this not being noted in the lease agreement.”

Van der Merwe says she also mentions, tongue in cheek, that the landlord did not have any objections to her paying two months’ rental in advance.

So it was a surprise when the landlord telephoned her one day, in the middle of the month, and demanded that she pay her rental, due at the end of the month, the very next day.

If the tenant did not comply, he said she would have to vacate the property at the end of the month and forfeit her deposit.

She now asks what she can do about the latest problem.

According to Grant Hill of Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys in Somerset West, the landlord is clearly placing the reader in a difficult and patently unfair position.

“If his previous conduct regarding the deposit is anything to go by, he no longer holds a deposit on the property. He appears to be in a financial predicament and needs cash in a hurry, thus the need to hold our reader to ransom.”

Hill says if the tenant were defaulting, which she is clearly not, there would be a formal eviction process that the landlord would have to follow.

“Regardless of the circumstances, there are certain required steps that would take more than the two weeks’ notice to carry out.”

In the interim, Hill suggests that the reader refer the matter to her provincial Rental Housing Tribunal as an unfair practice.

“The premature termination of the lease, threatened unlawful eviction and irregular and unlawful mishandling of the deposit all fall under the tribunal’s jurisdiction.”

Hill says the landlord would be unable to evict the reader for a period of three months or until the tribunal rules on the matter, whichever is earlier.

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