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Stricter new law for renting

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Change to act gives more protection

New legislation relating to rental housing will introduce stricter regulations designed to protect both landlords and tenants and help eliminate potential loopholes that could lead to disputes.

The Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 increases the rights of tenants and obligations of landlords, and aims to firm up the rules regarding inspections, deposits, the condition of a property and what should be included in the lease, says Glenda Taylor, principal of Greeff Rentals.

“This act should improve landlord/tenant relationships and provide further protection than that contained in the Rental Housing Act, as well as the Consumer Protection Act. While the amendment act is yet to be gazetted, both landlords and tenants will be required to comply with the provisions of the act immediately in all new lease agreements, while existing lease agreements are to be updated within six months of the act coming into effect.”

The amendment act stipulates a set of guidelines for both landlords and tenants and includes legislation that will require landlords to provide a written lease, as verbal agreements will no longer be binding. Landlords need to ensure their property is structurally sound, suitable for habitation, has adequate space and provides basic services such as water and electricity, Taylor says.

Landlords will be required to put tenants’ deposits in interest-bearing accounts, with the interest accruing to the tenant.

“The deposit interest should be refunded as soon as possible (usually seven days), after termination of the lease. The deposit may be applied towards the payment of any outstanding amounts for which the tenant is liable, including outstanding accounts for water/electricity and the reasonable cost of any repairs to damage caused by the tenant.”

Both landlord and tenant need to inspect the property at both the start and end of the lease. The act also protects landlords from tenants who cause malicious damage. Any defects or damage at the beginning of the lease period must be noted – but not necessarily rectified by the landlord – and must be listed and attached to the lease for later comparison.

On exit, if a joint inspection does not take place, the property is assumed to be in good condition and the landlord may not withhold the deposit for repairs.

Landlords also can’t cut off utilities and services due to non-payment, or lock a tenant out without a court order. Landlords can inspect the property, but only if prior a appointment has been made.

Although the landlord’s obligations are more onerous under the amendment act, Taylor says the law protects the landlord’s interests as well, and tenants will have to comply with revised terms and conditions in their leases.

“It’s crucial for both parties to understand the act, as well as their rights and responsibilities, and if both parties abide by the agreement, there is no cause for concern.”

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