Can agent withhold my rental deposit?

08 Nov 2012

A Property24 reader asks:

A Property24 reader asks how long he must wait to get his rental deposit back and questions deductions for cleaning and repairs.

I vacated property on the 30th of September that I rented for a year. On that day the letting agent came to the property and collected the keys walking through the unit. The new tenants moved in the same afternoon. No outgoing inspection was done besides that. When I initially moved in I took it upon myself to complete a list of defects and emailed it to them. 

After enquiring about my deposit I received an email on the 11th of October stating that they have deducted R500 for cleaning of the unit and an additional R400 for repairing of a garage lock. I know the garage lock was in working order as I used it daily and the unit was cleaned before I handed over the keys. The agency are also keeping R1 500 of the deposit for the last electricity bill (the electricity deposit was only R1 000). 

According to the email the difference would be refunded to me on the 15th of October. So far I have not received one cent.  What grounds do I have to demand my full refund as they are being opportunistic retaining money from my deposit? 

Alan Levy, an attorney at Alan Levy Attorneys who specialises in evictions, rent recoupment and landlord/tenant law replies:

After the termination of the lease the tenant and landlord must jointly inspect the property. 

In terms of the Rental Housing Act, the deposit (less any amounts that the tenant is liable for under the lease agreement) must be refunded to the tenant by the landlord not later than 14 days after restoration of the leased premises to the landlord. 

In terms of the Rental Housing Act, failure by the landlord to inspect the property in the presence of the tenant is deemed to be an acknowledgement  by the landlord that the property is in a good and proper state of repairs and that the landlord has no further claim against the tenant who must then be refunded  the full deposit and interest by the landlord. 

Please write a letter to the landlord demanding your deposit. If he fails to refund you, you can approach your local Rental Housing Tribunal to lay a complaint against the landlord and to obtain a refund of the deposit. 

Readers may submit questions to Property24’s Guest Expert panel and/or comment below. We may not be able to answer all questions received, but all will be considered. 

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