Your questions answered
Renting the property you live in has many advantages. If your short-term plans are unsettled, it is much easier and cheaper to relocate at short notice. You are spared the responsibility of paying property taxes; and usually don’t have the hassle of maintaining the property. Depending on your lease agreement, you may be lucky enough to have your utilities included in your rent, so your monthly outgoings are easy to budget.
The downside is that the property is not your own to do with as you wish. There may be conditions about pets, interior decoration, or renting out your spare room, to name a few. Disagreements between landlord and tenant are unfortunately all too common and can be a source of considerable stress, particularly for the tenant whose home it is. We offer some tips for a happy and stress-free tenancy.
- Get it in writing
While a verbal agreement is legally binding, a written and signed lease will clearly set out the terms and conditions of your tenancy and potentially save you a lot of grief later on should you and your landlord find yourselves in dispute. The information that should be on your lease includes:
- Your name and landlord’s name.
- Your postal address, landlord’s postal address, and address of the property being leased (usually the same as your postal address)
- The agreed rent, the amount of increase and when it may increase (e.g. by 10% at annual renewal) and the frequency of payment (monthly, quarterly, etc.)
- The amount of the deposit if there is one
- What each party is responsible for, e.g. utilities, maintenance, etc.
- The notice period for quitting the property (applicable to both parties)
- A record of a joint inspection you and your landlord make prior to moving in can be useful to ensure you are not blamed for any pre-existing defects later on. An inventory is also important if the property is let furnished
- Your rights as a tenant
The law places certain obligations on both you as a tenant and on your landlord. For instance, you have a duty to pay the agreed rent at the agreed time. However you also have certain rights:
- You can reasonably expect the landlord to maintain the property (which should be stipulated in the lease agreement). If the landlord neglects the maintenance he agreed to, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal
- If you paid a deposit, you have the right to have it returned to you when you move out, with interest, minus the cost of any repairs to damages caused by you and any amounts owing to the landlord, e.g. if you are behind in your rent
- Your landlord may enter the property to make reasonable inspections, but you have the right to be given sufficient notice of the visit. You do not have to grant access for an unannounced visit
- You are entitled to a receipt for any payments you make to your landlord, whether for normal rent, arrears, or any other payments
- Your landlord must consult you over any changes to your lease agreement, including rent increases (if not previously stipulated)
- You may give notice to quit the property earlier than the lease end date (e.g. if you are offered a job in another city). The Consumer Protection Act allows you to prematurely cancel a fixed lease by giving 20 business days notice. Your landlord is entitled to charge you a cancellation fee, but it must be reasonable and only reflect the costs incurred in finding a new tenant
- You have the right of continuous access to the property. Your landlord may not lock you out and must give you a duplicate key immediately should the locks need to be changed for security or other reasons. This holds true even if you are in arrears with your rent
- Your possessions are yours. Your landlord may not take your possessions in return for non-payment of rent without a court order. If you are having trouble paying your rent, discuss it with your landlord and agree payment terms to avoid the situation getting out of hand
If all else fails…
These are general tips for a successful tenancy. Every lease agreement is different, though we can provide a standard tenancy agreement template that you can ask your landlord to use if no written lease is offered to you. If, despite a written lease in place, you feel you are being treated unfairly or illegally by your landlord, you have the right to appeal to the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal for advice. You can contact the Tribunal on 0860 166 106
At Simon Dippenaar & Associates we are specialists in property law. We act for both landlords and tenants and therefore know the challenges faced by both parties; and we have an intimate knowledge of the legislation from both sides. Call us now on 087 550 2740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org you are being threatened with eviction or need help with your tenancy agreement.