Category: Rental Housing

RENTAL RIGHTS DURING THE WATER CRISIS

As a constitutional right, everyone should have access to clean water. Even during a water crisis. In cases where there is a signed agreement between a tenant and landlord pertaining to the supply of water, the obligations stated in the rental agreement should be met by the respective party. Should one of the parties fail to oblige, the agreement may be terminated. Parties to this contract should, however, understand the changes that come with crises.

Common law recognises any crises that could not have been halted or anticipated as “An Act of God”. These are the rights pertaining to rental agreements during a water crisis:

  • Ongoing water supply:

If the municipality reduces water supply, tenant may not cancel lease agreement or claim reduced rental.

  • Services supplied to tenant (swimming pool, sprinklers etc.):

Should day zero come and water supply is cut off, landlords may not continue charging tenants for these services if they are no longer available.

  • Reduced utility charges:

Tenants are within their rights to negotiate that their utilities amount be reduced to account for what the landlord would be paying on their behalf.

  • Municipal bills and fines:

The landlord must pay these to avoid water supply being cut off for the tenant. The landlord may claim that money back from the tenant.

  • Maintenance responsibilities (refilling the pool, watering gardens etc.):

Tenants are exempt from complying with these responsibilities if they contravene with water restrictions.

The water crisis, which has affected mostly the Western Cape, has seen the municipality put restrictions on water usage, cut water supply at certain times of the day, and increase the water rates. Most lease agreements make provision for the responsibility of water usage – the tenant could either be billed monthly, or the rental amount could be water inclusive. If the water bill is the tenant’s responsibility, then they will be liable for the increased water prices. If the rental amount is fixed, any fluctuation in the water bill will be absorbed by the landlord.

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)

AWAITING YOUR DEPOSIT

What to know when your landlord has your deposit and has failed to pay it out

You have viewed the new property and secured it by paying the correct deposit amount to the landlord. With the transition into your new space being as breezy as it was, no red flags were raised as to how your landlord could trick you going forward. How do you approach a situation where your landlord won’t pay you back your deposit after you move out?

Firstly, a pre- and post-occupation inspection of the rental space must be completed before and after the tenant moves in. This inspection is the landlord’s responsibility and if he or she does not conduct the said inspection, they are then unable to claim against the tenant upon the lease expiration. The Rental Housing Act states that the tenant has the right not to have their home or property searched by the landlord, and thus, the landlord must give reasonable notice for inspection 3 days before the lease ends.

Regarding deposits, section 5 of the RHA states that, should there be damages incurred by the tenant under the said lease needing repair after the post-occupation inspection, the landlord must refund the remaining deposit amount, if any, to the tenant within 14 days. In the case where no claims for damages have been made by the landlord, and the tenant is debt free in terms of charges and rent, the deposit must be refunded within seven days following the lease expiration. A tenant who refuses to take part in the inspection process, and damages have been found, is liable to receive their remaining deposit 21 days from the expiration of the lease.

If a landlord refuses or has failed to refund the tenant their deposit, the tenant may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal.

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)

References:

Rental Housing Act No. 50 of 1999. (2017). [PDF] Cape Town: Republic of South Africa, pp.6-7. Available at: https://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a50-99.pdf [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

THE RENTAL HOUSING TRIBUNAL: I HAVE A COMPLAINT AGAINST MY LANDLORD/TENANT

Formed in 2001, the tribunal is comprised of five members (including a chair and vice chairperson) appointed by the Provincial Minister of Human Settlements, who each have expertise in property management, housing development and consumer matters pertaining to rental housing.

The tribunal seeks to:

  1. Harmonise relationships between landlords and tenants in the rental housing sector.
  2. Resolve disputes that arise due to unfair practices.
  3. Inform landlords and tenants about their rights and obligations in terms of the Rental Housing Act.
  4. Make recommendations to relevant stakeholders.

How do I lodge a complaint?

  1. First complete the relevant forms available from the Rental Housing Tribunal.
  2. The Rental Housing Tribunal will investigate the matter and find out what the problem is and try to resolve it amicably and as soon as possible.

What will the Rental Housing Tribunal do?

  1. They will establish whether there is any dispute between the landlord and tenant.
  2. They will try to resolve the matter through mediation – if the dispute cannot be resolved it should be referred to a hearing.
  3. They will conduct a hearing, where the landlord and tenant will be summoned for hearing by the Tribunal.
  4. A just and fair ruling will be made.
  5. Where a mediation agreement has been concluded, make such an agreement a ruling of the Tribunal. This ruling is binding on both parties.
  6. The Tribunal may make a ruling as to who pays whose costs.

What happens after I have lodged a complaint?

  1. After a complaint has been lodged with the Tribunal until the date of the ruling on the matter, the:
  2. landlord may not evict the tenant;
  3. tenant must continue to pay the rent; and
  4. landlord must maintain the property.

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)

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