How to avoid landlord and tenant conflict

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LANDLORDS and tenants are often locked in bitter disputes. According to estate agent, John Mokoena, there are important things you should know before renting a property. “A lot of conflicts that happen between landlords and tenants are usually because of a lack of written agreements,” says John.

THE LEASE AGREEMENT

John explains the importance of a lease agreement between a landlord and tenant and says that it can prevent a major fall-out between the parties involved. “Although oral agreements are also binding, getting everything in writing is better as there can be no chance of miscommunication and it is then easier to prove if either party has breached the terms and conditions of the agreement. You are within your rights to ask for a written agreement  and the landlord must provide one if you ask for it,”  says John. “The lease for residential property usually runs from six to 12 months at a time but can be longer and will include important details such as the rental amount, the proposed increase by a certain date (usually on the renewal of the contract) and whether the utility bill is the landlord’s duty to pay or if it’s paid directly to the municipality by the tenant. Check that this is clear and whether you will be able to stay in the unit if you choose to renew the contract,” he says. It’s important to understand the contract before you sign on the dotted line.

THE TENANT’S RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS

As a tenant, you also have a few things you have rights to and that you are obliged to do in order to keep your end of the contract:

¦ Pay the correct amount of rent at the proper place and time.

¦ Take good care of the property and not use it for other purposes than for which it was let.

¦ Restore it to the same condition that you received it at termination of the lease.

¦ Make rapid and regular payment of rent and other charges payable in terms of the lease.

¦ Make payment of a deposit, the amount of which should be agreed upfront between the landlord and tenant.

¦ Have a combined incoming and outgoing inspection of the property with the landlord.

CANCELLING THE AGREEMENT

According to John, the tenant has the right to cancel the lease prior to the end of the fixed period. How much notice you have to give and what fees you have to pay depend on what type of contract you have. “If your contract with your landlord hasn’t expired, things are more complex. First, you’ll need to see if the contract has a cancellation clause. If it doesn’t and you have no cause to argue your landlord has broken the terms of the lease, you can give notice of 20 business days (under section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act), but you will be liable to pay a fee to the landlord. While this fee isn’t set in stone, it should generally cover the ‘reasonable’ costs of bringing in a replacement tenant,” John advises.