By Marli Naidoo
Many people prefer buying a house rather than renting one. This is definitely less complicated than owning one. The owner does get rent, but he is still at the mercy of the property market and hidden costs. And he can only hope that his tenants will take good care of his house and pay their rent on time. Rental houses are also more readily available and therefore easier to get hold of. However, it sometimes happens that a tenant is wronged when an owner or agent acts unreasonably or unlawfully towards him. In that case it is important that the tenant must know his legal rights.
Never rent a house without a formal contract, even if you trust the owner. The contract must also be legal in terms of the Rental Housing Act (Act 50 of 1999). Be sure to read the contract and understand what is expected of you as tenant.
Should the tenant decide to move out and the owner does not pay back the deposit in time, the owner will have to add interest to the amount. The homeowner may also not use the deposit to upgrade the property. He may, however, use the deposit for costs for which the tenant is liable, such as outstanding rental, arrear water accounts, lost keys or damage caused by the tenant. The balance is then paid to the tenant. This payment must be made within 14 days after the tenant moved out. If the tenant does not attend the final inspection, the owner has 21 days to pay back the balance of the deposit.
The tenant has the right to receipts for all amounts he pays to the owner, as well as to invoices setting out the different costs.
The owner may not increase the rental during the fixed period of tenancy.
Normally a lease is for a fixed period, for instance 12 months. However, the tenant does have the right to cancel the lease before the end of the fixed period. The tenant must give the owner 20 working days’ notice. He must also keep in mind that he will be liable for a reasonable cancellation fee. Should the owner not be able to find other tenants, the tenant will have to pay rent for up to three months.
The owner is responsible for the maintenance of the house, and the tenant must make sure that he informs the owner when something breaks or causes problems. However, should the tenant break something he must replace it. At the commencement of the contract the owner and tenant must make sure that both of them know who is responsible for what. It must also be clearly set out in the contract.
The owner may not pass on false information to the credit bureau that will negatively affect the tenant’s credit profile. The tenant may request one credit report a year free of charge.
The owner may not simply turn up at the house and work on it or demand to be let in. He must arrange a suitable day and time with the tenants.
A tenant who feels that he is not being treated lawfully or fairly may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal. They help tenants and owners to act lawfully and treat each other with due respect.
Regular communication and good knowledge of both parties’ rights could assure a good understanding between the parties. Make sure that you keep your side clean and always act within the ambit of the law.
Private Property: https://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/tenants-rights-and-obligations/559
Eviction lawyers of South Africa: https://evictionlawyerssouthafrica.co.za/tenants-rights-south-africa/
Law for all: https://www.lawforall.co.za/homes-property/basic-guide-to-renting-a-home-in-south-africa/
Private Property: https://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/the-rental-housing-tribunal-know-your-rights/4440