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Amended act covers landlords and their tenants

New rental housing legislation will introduce stricter laws to protect both landlords and tenants and help eliminate potential grey areas that could create disputes.

The Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 increases the rights of tenants and obligations of landlords, and aims to firm up 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 already contained in the Rental Housing Act and Consumer Protection Act. While the long-anticipated amendment act is yet to be gazetted, both landlords and tenants will be required to comply with the provisions of the act immediately for 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 guidelines for landlords and tenants, and includes legislation which will require landlords to provide a written lease agreement as verbal agreements will no longer be binding.

Landlords also need to ensure their properties are structurally sound, suitable for habitation, have adequate space and provide basic services such as water and electricity, Taylor says. All these items should be addressed in the lease agreement. Landlords will be required to place tenants’ deposits in interest-bearing accounts, with the interest accruing for the tenants’ benefit.

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

Rental properties will also need to undergo joint inspections at both the start and end of the lease, Taylor says, adding that the act protects landlords from tenants who cause malicious damage to rental properties. The onus is on the landlord to inspect the property, with the tenant, at the start of the lease.

Any defects or damage must be noted, but not necessarily rectified by the landlord, and must be listed and attached to the lease agreement 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 or damages. Landlords cannot cut off utilities and services due to non-payment, or lock a tenant out of the property without a court order.

Instead they need to follow the correct legal procedures, even if the tenant is in breach. Furthermore, tenants are entitled to privacy and landlords can inspect the property from time to time only if prior appointments have been made. Unannounced inspections are not permissible.

Although the landlord’s obligations are more onerous under the amendment act, Taylor says the legislation protects the landlord’s property interests as well, and going forward, tenants will have to comply with revised terms and conditions contained in their lease agreements.

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

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