10 Things Your Landlord MUST do!

10 Things Your Landlord MUST do!

In my line of business as a residential letting specialist, I have been receiving numerous requests for advice about dealing with unscrupulous landlords or agents, who have become a law unto themselves in the realm of tenancies. My discussion with tenants, together with much online reading and research has revealed that many landlords are simply not aware of the legal obligation to tenants and in their conduct in the conclusion of a residential lease. Tenants are pulling their hair out in dealing with their nightmare landlords, who blissfully ignore the legal obligations imposed on them by the Rental Housing Act and the Unfair Practices Regulations, together with the Consumer Protection Act.

This has compelled me to outline 10 specific obligations that landlords have to meet in law as it pertains to terms in the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 (RHA) and the Unfair Practices Regulations of 2002

1. Landlords/Agents may not discriminate against you!

”a landlord may not unfairly discriminate against such prospective tenant or tenants, or the members of such tenant’s household or visitors of such tenant, on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 4(1))

It is important to note that a landlord/agent may choose to be selective in their choice of a quality tenant on the basis of affordability, credit worthiness, references and general suitability for a property but not to specifically discriminate against you on the basis outlined above, if in fact you qualify in all other respects.

2. Landlords/Agents must invest your deposit in no less than a Savings Account in a Financial institution in South Africa, with interest accruing to your benefit! Yes, it’s the law!

”the deposit must be invested by the landlord in an interest-bearing account with a financial institution and… pay the tenant interest at the rate applicable to such account which may not be less than the rate applicable to a savings account with a financial institution” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[d])

Landlords are not permitted to use the deposit for any other purpose but to restore the property to the condition it was found at the incoming inspection as jointly performed by the landlord and tenant.

3. Your landlord/agent is obliged to show, at any time, upon request, during the course of the lease where your deposit is invested and what amount of interest has accrued to date.

”the tenant may during the period of the lease, request the landlord to provide him or her with written proof in respect of interest accrued on such deposit, and the landlord must provide such proof on request” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[d])

4. Landlords/Agents must jointly inspect the property with you at the commencement and termination of the lease to confirm the state of repair and overall condition and make record thereof to establish if any deduction applies to the deposit at the termination of the lease.

”the tenant and the landlord must jointly, before the tenant moves into the dwelling, inspect the dwelling to ascertain the existence or not of any defects or damage therein with a view to determining the landlord’s responsibility for rectifying any defects or damage or with a view to registering such defects or damage…  at the expiration of the lease the landlord and tenant must arrange a joint inspection of the dwelling at a mutually convenient time to take place within a period of three days prior to such expiration with a view to ascertaining if there was any damage caused to the dwelling during the tenant’s occupation thereof’” (Excerpts from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[e & f]) 

5. You have the right to privacy during the term of your lease and the landlord/agent is obliged not to hinder your enjoyment of the unit and access the property without good cause, in an emergency, or to only access the unit with reasonable notice.

”the tenant has the right, during the lease period  to privacy and the landlord may only exercise his or her right of inspection in a reasonable manner after reasonable notice to the tenant.” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 4 (2)) 

6. Landlords are obliged to offer a property reasonably fit for the purpose of residential use and in a state that is habitable

”A landlord must let a dwelling which at commencement of the lease is in a condition which is reasonable fit for the purpose for which it is let” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999, Unfair Practices Regulations Section 4 (1) [a {i}]

7. Although leases in South Africa need not be in writing, your landlord is obliged to give you a written lease if you request this

”A landlord must, if requested thereto by a tenant, reduce the lease to writing” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(2))     

8. You may insist that your landlord gives you a receipt for any moneys paid, this is particularly important if you are paying cash.

You put yourself in a very vulnerable position to be exploited by unscrupulous landlords by not insisting on a receipt when you pay over any funds for deposit and rental.

”the landlord must furnish the tenant with a written receipt for all payments received by the landlord from the tenant” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[a]) 

9. After termination of the lease and a joint inspection.

The landlord may make certain deductions to the deposit if it is ascertained that damages exist or that the property is not in the same condition as was recorded at the incoming inspection and the landlord is further obliged to refund your deposit within 7 days if no deductions are made, 14 days if deductions are made and if you fail to attend an outgoing inspection after this has been requested by the landlord, 21 days after such inspection. Deductions naturally exclude any damages as they relate to ‘fair wear and tear’

”on the expiration of the lease, the landlord may apply such deposit and interest towards the payment of all amounts for which the tenant is liable under the said lease, including the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period and the cost of replacing lost keys and the balance of the deposit and interest, if any, must then be refunded to the tenant by the landlord not later than 14 days of restoration” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[g])

”should no amounts be due and owing to the landlord in terms of the lease, the deposit, together with the accrued interest in respect thereof, must be refunded by the landlord to the tenant, without any deduction or set-off, within 7 days of expiration of the lease” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[i])

”should the tenant fail to respond to the landlord’s request for an inspection, the balance of the deposit and interest, if any, after deduction of the amounts (for remedy of the property) must be refunded to the tenant by the landlord not later than 21 days after expiration of the lease’’ (Excerpts from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[f-m]) 

10. Your landlord/agent, is obliged to retain all invoices and receipts of costs incurred in restoring the property as contemplated in the Act.

Such receipts and invoices need to be made available for the tenant to have sight of once the property has been restored.

”the relevant receipts which indicate the costs which the landlord incurred… must be available to the tenant for inspection as proof of such costs incurred by the landlord” (Excerpt from RHA 50 of 1999 Chapter 3 Section 5(3)[n])

Remember communication and record keeping of such communication is your greatest ally in proof that you have complied in the event of dispute, remember to always keep in good standing with your side of the agreement. Ceasing payment of your rent immediately propels you into the realm of breach of your agreement. For more remedy available to you, as tenant, in dealing with landlords/agents who are not meeting their obligations, then please refer to your local Rental Housing Tribunal (an easy search online), a free service available for tenants and landlords in the event of disputes.

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