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Answered: 6 questions frequently asked by tenants

23 Jul 2019

Tenants are often in the dark with regards to their rights and responsibilities when renting a property.

Tenants are often in the dark when it comes to their rights and responsibilities. From alterations to your deposit, damages and more, get the answers…

PG van der Linde, Rentals Manager at Seeff Pretoria East, answers 6 of the questions most often asked by tenants:

1. Can I make changes to a rental property?

Once the lease has been approved and the tenant has moved into the property they are not allowed to make any structural additions or install fixtures without written consent from the owner. If the owner does give consent, it is important to remember that tenants are not entitled to compensation for convenient changes and fixtures when the lease expires. Tenants may also not remove these alterations/fixtures from the premises.

Tenants may, however, in some instances be entitled to reimbursement where necessary improvements and maintenance were undertaken.

It is advisable for tenants to ask agents to propose structural changes to the landlord prior to moving in.

2. How can I be sure to get my deposit back?

The most important factors are to look after the property as if it was your own and to hand it back in the same condition as it was received in, with the exclusion of fair wear and tear.

An agent will determine the initial condition of the property with a thorough inspection of the premises before the lease commences.

It is advisable that the tenant and the owner both take pictures, and even videos, of the property and to have a condition list with notes stipulating the condition of the property.

Both parties should sign and initial the final report. This report can then be referred back to if any issues arise later on.

3. What is the difference between damage and fair wear and tear?

Fair wear and tear is allowed on a property, and the tenant should not be penalised for this. When there is wear and tear to something that does not usually deteriorate over time, then it is not considered wear and tear, but rather damage.

Things that will experience wear and tear include carpets, paint, door handles, cupboards, closets, etc.

If there are a few new scuff marks on a door after a tenant has lived there it can be seen as fair, but if there is a hole or crack in the door it is considered a damage.

Carpets will not remain in mint condition after its first wash, but if the wear and tear seems excessive it will be considered damage. The tenant will then be expected to repair the property to the state it was initially received in.

4. Can I back out of my rental leases?

A property is an investment and a vacant property not earning rental income could be detrimental to the landlord.

A tenant is allowed to give 20 business days' notice to cancel a lease agreement at any time, in accordance with Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act.

If the landlord/agent makes an effort to procure a new tenant by marketing the property at market-related prices after receiving notice, but fail to find a new tenant, the tenant who gave notice can be held liable for a reasonable cancellation penalty.

A reasonable cancellation penalty may require that the tenant pays the rental for the remainder of the lease should a new tenant not be sourced. It is advisable to stipulate the reasonable cancellation penalty in the agreement of lease.

5. When is rent payable, and when is it late?

Rent is payable on the first of the month and is considered late by day two of the month.

Many tenants are under the impression that they have a seven-day grace period to pay, but this is not true. The owner is allowed to place the tenant in breach if the rental does not clear the landlord/agent's account on the first.

A landlord is well within his or her rights to send a letter of demand on the second day of the month if the rental was not received. The tenant will be afforded 20 business days to remedy the breach.

If the tenant does not remedy the breach within 20 business days, the landlord will be entitled to cancel the agreement effective immediately and to give the tenant notice to vacate.

“Should the tenant breach contract or default on payments for three consecutive months, we will continue with blacklisting. Blacklisting someone is not something we like to do, but we feel that it is our responsibility to make society aware of non-paying individuals,” says Van der Linde.

6. What can I do if I can’t resolve issues with my landlord?

Tenants and landlords who have issues that can’t be resolved by agents, can turn to the Rental Housing Tribunal. They will listen to both parties and establish a fair settlement or assist in mediation.

It is important to note that the Rental Housing Tribunal is not biased towards the tenant, but will listen to the facts and base their decision on these facts whether in favour of the landlord or tenant.

Get the contact details for the Rental Housing Tribunal here.

Find your ideal rental property here.

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