Category Archives: Rental Housing

IS THE TENANT OR LANDLORD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WATER LEAKS?

B4Questions, and sometimes disputes, often arise between landlords and tenants regarding where the responsibility lies with the maintenance of a property. The simple answer is that tenants can generally only be held responsible for repairs/replacement on the property if the damage was caused by the tenant’s actions, or items that have a short life span, such as light bulbs.

On the other hand, alarm systems, auto gates and doors, locks, fixtures and fittings, appliances, or anything provided to the tenant are generally the responsibility of the owner to repair, unless damaged by the tenant.

Fair wear and tear

Damage due to fair wear and tear is the owner’s responsibility to correct. This includes situations where the property has, over time, experienced wear due to its use or age.

Examples would include:

  1. Fireplace chimneys: The landlord should maintain the fireplace e.g. having the chimney cleaned at appropriate intervals. Gardens, however, would require the tenant to do general maintenance.
  2. Blocked drains: This is usually due to tenant usage making it the tenant’s responsibility, but if blockage is due to tree roots, it would be the landlord’s responsibility.

Regarding appliances, as with any fixture or fitting, the landlord is responsible for repairs to appliances provided under the tenancy agreement unless the damage was caused by the tenant’s deliberate actions or negligence.

Tenants should report any damage on the property. If they fail to do this, they could find themselves held liable for any further damage due to lack of immediate attention to the initial problem. Furthermore, tenants are obliged to provide access for contractors to effect repairs.

Conclusion

If there is a water leak on the property, it would most likely be the landlord’s responsibility to fix. It is advisable for tenants to read and understand the lease agreement fully and for landlords to list as much as possible that needs to be maintained by the tenant. For example, if the unit has a garden that the tenant is responsible for maintaining, this should be mentioned in the lease.

Reference:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

HOW DO I CANCEL A LEASE?

B1What happens when a landlord or a tenant wants to cancel a lease? What rules and what legislation apply? What protection does the law provide?

If you want to end your lease early, this can be done in situations where:

  1. the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act applies, or
  2. there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or
  3. if both parties agree to it.

If, on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to give written notice for the breach to be remedied.

For tenants

  1. If your landlord is in material breach of the lease, then cancelling your lease early will not be in breach of the contract.
  2. If your landlord has met all the conditions of the lease and you decide to cancel your lease early, you will be in breach of contract unless the termination of the lease has been mutually agreed upon. Speak to your landlord before making any rushed decisions, chances are, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement whereby you are able to find a replacement tenant or sublet the property for the remainder of your lease.

For landlords

  1. Firstly, look to the provisions of the lease itself. Most leases contain a breach clause, which indicate a period of a number of days that are necessary to be given as notice to the tenant of a breach. If there is no breach period specified, it will be a ‘reasonable period’ in terms of the common law.
  2. If you give notice of the breach, and it is not remedied in the breach notice period, this means that you can take action to sue for whatever is owed or even issue summons and attach the tenant’s goods by evoking your landlord’s hypothec, but you cannot cancel the lease and evict.

When it comes to cancelling agreements, it is always best to consult a legal expert since doing something from your own understanding and experience could lead to a court case.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MY TENANT FAILED TO PAY RENT: CAN I KICK HIM OUT?

A2bIf your tenant has failed to pay his or her rent, it can be tempting to simply kick them out yourself and change the locks. However, do so would be considered illegal, even if the tenant has become an illegal occupant. The reason is because of the PIE Act.

In sum, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (1998) provides procedures for eviction of unlawful occupants and prohibits unlawful evictions. The main aim of the Act is to protect both occupiers and landowners. The owner or landlord must follow the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (except in areas where ESTA operates) if they want to evict a tenant.

Who is covered?

Anyone who is an unlawful occupier, which includes tenants who fail to pay their rentals and bonds, is covered by PIE. It excludes anyone who qualifies as an ‘occupier’ in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act.

When is an eviction lawful?

  1. For an eviction to happen lawfully, certain procedures must be followed. If any one of them is left out, the eviction is unlawful. So, if an owner wants to have an unlawful occupier evicted, they must do the following:
  • give the occupier notice of his/her intention of going to court to get an eviction order.
  • apply to the court to have a written notice served on the occupier stating the owner’s intention to evict the occupier.
  • The court must serve the notice at least 14 days before the court hearing. The notice must also be served on the municipality that has jurisdiction in the area.

After a landlord intrusts their attorney to commence eviction proceedings, the following happens:

  1. Typically, (except in a case of urgency, e.g. if the tenant is maliciously damaging the leased premises because he got notice to vacate) the attorney will call on the tenant to remedy the breach (usually failure to pay rent on time);
  2. If the tenant fails to deal with the demand, the tenant will be considered to be in illegal occupation of the property;
  3. The attorney then applies to court for permission to begin the eviction process. The court gives a directive as to how and on whom notice of eviction should be served;
  4. The attorney doesn’t give the tenant notice at this time;
  5. The application to court sets out the reasons for the application and the personal circumstances of the occupants;
  6. If the courts are satisfied that it is fair to evict the tenant and all persons occupying the property with him, it gives a directive as to how the application for eviction must be served;
  7. The sheriff then serves the notice of intention to evict on the tenant and the Local Municipality;
  8. The occupants have an opportunity to oppose the application, and explain why they should not be evicted;
  9. If there is opposition, the matter gets argued before a magistrate or judge, who decides whether an eviction order can be granted, and if so, by when the occupants should vacate the property within a stipulated time;
  10. If the tenant does not oppose, the court will grant the eviction order;
  11. If the tenant fails to move, the attorney will apply to Court for a warrant of ejectment to be issued by the Court. This process can take a further three to four weeks.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CANCELLING A LEASE AGREEMENT EARLY

If you want to end your contract early, this can only be done “in situations where the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act apply” – or if there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or if both parties agree to it.

If on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to “give written notice for the breach to be remedied. Failure to remedy the breach in the stipulated time period, will entitle the innocent party to cancel the lease and (where relevant) claim damages suffered from the offending party.”

A tenant has the RIGHT to cancel a lease agreement, be it in the 1st month, 4th month or second-to-last month of the lease agreement. He cannot be ‘punished’ for doing this and the cancellation does not constitute a breach of the lease agreement.

 What must an agent do if a tenant decides to cancel?

  1. Obtain the cancellation in writing from the tenant.
  2. Ensure the cancellation gives the requisite 20 business days’ notice.
  3. Charge rental until the end of the 20 business days (even if this is not a full month’s rental).
  4. Log on to TPN and end the lease as at the end of the 20 business days.
  5. Keep in mind the lease now ends as at the end of that 20 business days.
  6. Should the tenant remains in the premises a new lease MUST be signed as once cancelled, a lease cannot be revived at law. If you fail to do this, you essentially have no long-term lease in place.
  7. Begin advertising the property immediately- the onus is on the agent/landlord to find a replacement.
  8. Keep all invoices from the advertising as this is one of the costs you may pass along to the tenant in terms of a ‘reasonable cancellation penalty’.

 What can an agent charge the tenant that cancels early?

The idea behind this reasonable cancellation penalty is not to penalise the tenant, but to recover any actual loss suffered by the landlord as a result of the cancellation. The following cost could be applicable:

  1. Credit check costs for any prospective replacement tenants (even those who are not accepted);
  2. Advertising costs (only the actual amounts on the invoices);
  3. Rental – the exact number of days that the unit remains vacant after the tenant vacates.

It is important to keep in mind that all calculations of the penalty can only be made once a replacement tenant has been found. It must also be kept in mind that where a tenant cancels, for example, in month 10 or 11 of a 12-month lease, you cannot charge the tenant the full remainder of the lease as this would negate the cancellation. The principles behind cancellation penalties lie in our law of undue enrichment. A landlord/agent cannot make a financial gain or benefit off of a tenant’s cancellation.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

RENTING PROPERTY TO FOREIGNERS

Renting property in South Africa is a straightforward process. The country has a vast selection of rental accommodation including bachelor flats in apartment blocks, Victorian cottages, stand-alone houses with big gardens, and semi-detached units in modern townhouse complexes.

In South Africa, the right of a foreigner to purchase immovable property was restricted in the past by the Aliens Control Act. These restrictions were uplifted in 2003 by the new Immigration Act (“the Act”) which repealed the Aliens Control Act and many of its restrictive provisions and now clearly defines who a legal foreigner is and who is not. In short, a legal foreigner is a person in possession of a valid temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs.

The new Act makes provision for various temporary residence permits to be issued to foreigners, including amongst others:

  • A visitor’s permit
  • A work and entrepreneurial permit
  • A retired person permit

In principle, a landlord or tenant can legitimately lease or sell immovable property to any person recognised under the Act as a legal foreigner.

That said, foreigners working in South Africa with a legal work permit, are not regarded as “non-residents” by the South African Reserve Bank. They are considered to be residents for the duration of the period of their work permit and are therefore not restricted to a loan of only 50% of the purchase price.

It is also important to take note that the Act criminalizes the letting or selling of immovable property to an illegal foreigner by making this transaction equivalent to the aiding and abetting of an illegal foreigner and is such an act classified as a criminal offence in terms of the Act.

In conclusion, a legal foreigner may let or buy immovable property in South Africa, provided that he is the holder of either a legal temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs. Ensure that you enquire from your potential tenant or purchaser whether they are legally present in South Africa and obtain the necessary proof from them before entering into any transaction with a foreigner. Also, take account of the restrictions on local financing, particularly where the procurement of financing is a condition precedent to the agreement.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

IS MY TENANT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORN OUT CARPET?

There are several damages a landlord can deduct from a tenant’s deposit. However, there are certain household items that will experience normal wear and tear over time. This is referred to as “fair wear and tear”.

Fair wear and tear is seen as damage or loss to an item at the property which happens as a result of ordinary use and exposure over time.

According to the Rental Housing Act, a landlord is free to claim compensation for damage to the property caused by the tenant, except for fair wear and tear.

It’s important to remember that the original condition and age of the item at commencement of the lease agreement needs to be taken into account, and therefore cost of depreciation of the item due to normal wear. Paint fades, doors and walls get scuffed with use, and everything wears or breaks over time, even with a tenant who really cares for the property, and one can’t hold a tenant liable for this.

If a tenant or landlord has a problem, they can go to the Rental Housing Tribunal to resolve it.

The Rental Housing Tribunal

The Rental Housing Tribunal is a useful resource for both landlords and tenants who are dealing with rental property disputes in different forms. Cases that the Rental Housing Tribunal deals with include:

  1. Tenants defaulting on their rent
  2. Failure to repay a deposit
  3. Invasion of a tenant’s privacy
  4. Overcrowding of a rental property
  5. Determining a fair rental amount
  6. Illegal seizing of a tenant’s property
  7. Discrimination against a prospective tenant
  8. A receipt for rent not being issued
  9. Unacceptable behaviour by a tenant
  10. Lack of maintenance and repairs to the property
  11. Illegally refuse a tenant access to the property or interrupt services
  12. Unacceptable living conditions

A general rule of thumb is that, if a tenant has damaged something that does not normally wear out, or the tenant has substantially shortened the life of something that does wear out, the tenant may be charged the prorated cost of the item. The landlord should take into account how old the item was and how long it may have lasted otherwise, as well as the cost of replacement.

Conclusion

Ordinary wear and tear to carpets should not count against the tenant, however large rips or stains would be considered damage. Any deduction for the tenant’s deposit should take into account the age of the carpets, compared with the expected total time of usage.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)