New act will help ­tenants ánd owners

2016-06-29 06:00
CORLIA VAN ZYL

CORLIA VAN ZYL

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Question:

I AM the owner of a number of properties which I let to tenants.

The Rental Housing Act has been amended. What are the implications for me as landlord?

Answer:

The Rental Housing Amendment Act, which will come into operation on a date yet to be proclaimed, will address many of the shortfalls of the Rental Housing Act.

The major changes provided for by this act will impact the rights and duties of tenants and landlords and the requirements that lease agreements must comply with.

For example, landlords have a duty to invest a tenant’s deposit in an interest-bearing account with a financial institution, at an interest rate which may not be less than the rate applicable to a savings account with that financial institution.

A tenant has a right to receive a written receipt from the landlord reflecting all payments made by the tenant. The tenant may receive written proof of interest earned on the deposit.

The deposit, together with the interest earned on such a deposit, subject to deductions for damages, must be paid out to the tenant within seven days of expiration of the lease.

Before the tenant takes occupation of the property, the tenant and landlord must jointly inspect the property for any defects or damages.

At expiration of the lease, the tenant and the landlord must jointly inspect the property again to establish if there was any damage to the property caused by the tenant’s occupation, within a period of three days prior to such expiration.

The intention is to establish if the tenant is liable for any damages to the property, which the landlord can deduct from the deposit.

Failure by the landlord to inspect the property with the tenant at the expiration of the lease means that the landlord acknowledges that the property is in a good and proper state of repair and the landlord will have no further claim against the tenant and must refund the full deposit plus interest to the tenant.

Should the tenant fail to respond to the landlord’s request for an inspection, the landlord must, within seven days after the expiration of the lease, inspect the property in order to assess any damages or loss which occurred during the tenancy and may deduct from the tenant’s deposit the reasonable cost of repairing damage and refund the balance of the deposit and interest, no later than 21 days after expiration of the lease.

The landlord must make available to the tenant the receipts which indicate the costs incurred by the landlord.

The act also provides that all lease agreements must be in writing.

The act places this responsibility on the landlord and provides for the minimum contents that a lease agreement should contain.

It also places a duty on the minister of Human Settlements to develop a pro forma lease agreement in all 11 official languages that contains the content as prescribed by the act, which can be used as the basis for a lease agreement.

Landlords and tenants alike will have to comply with these new requirements within six months from the date of commencement of the act.

Landlords are advised to consult a property specialist to update their pro forma lease agreement to ensure that it complies with the new act, as well as ensure that processes for new and departing tenants are ready to avoid the penalties that can be imposed under the act once it is operational.
Corlia Van Zyl, associate, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys

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