In 2014, the amended Rental Housing Act (commonly called the landlord and tenant act) was passed and is soon to be implemented with many of the original provisions still in place.
However, there have been miscommunications and misinterpretations in the past which have compromised the contractual relationship between tenants and landlords.
The overall relationship between landlord and tenant is governed by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) as well as by common law.
With the introduction of the new landlord and tenant act, the aim is to clarify ambiguous aspects of the original act and, in turn, mitigate misinterpretation of contractual agreements.
With the new legislation, it has become mandatory for lease agreements between tenant and landlord to be in writing and legally binding.
Before the lease is signed, every section of the lease, as well as any other addendums and definitions found in the lease must be explained to and understood by the tenant before both party’s sign.
Furthermore, it will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the rental property remains in a habitable state.
The landlord is required to maintain the property when necessary while ensuring the tenant has access to basic services such as electricity and water. In cases of non-payment, only the municipality and utilities company are authorised to cut off the services in question.
No landlord is allowed to deny the tenant access to the rental property for non-payment of rent without being in possession of a court order for non-payment specifically.
Upon commencement of the lease agreement, both the landlord and the tenant are required to carry out a joint inspection of the rental property. Once the inspection has taken place, a list of defects must be compiled and attached to the lease agreement as an addendum.
Should the landlord fail to attend this inspection, he or she forfeits the right to withhold any part of the tenant’s deposit for damages or repairs. The deposit must be returned to the tenant, with interest earned, within 7 days after the lease has expired, subject to any permissible damage related deductions.
Once the new legislature comes into force, landlords have 6 months to ensure they comply with all the requirements of the amended Rental Housing Act.
Failure to do so could result in the landlord facing a hefty fine or potentially a jail-sentence for non-compliance. Landlords will also have to take into consideration the Consumer Protection Act when dealing with rental tenants.
In order to avoid unnecessary complications, it’s best advised that landlords employ professional estate agents to act on their behalf. Estate agents are well versed in property law and will help avoid non-compliance with the Act.
For further assistance with matters related to the contractual relationship between landlord and tenant, please contact our attorneys in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
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