The legalities of renting a home

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s wise to keep in mind the legalities of residential letting in South Africa.

Landlords need to follow correct procedures in terms of recovering rental.

A landlord is obliged to send a letter of demand notifying the tenant of the fact that he or she is in breach of contract, giving the tenant seven days within which to contact the landlord and make arrangements to settle the amount outstanding.

If payment is not forthcoming within 20 days, the landlord can blacklist the tenant until such time as the debt has been settled. If a tenant wishes to vacate the premises prior to the termination of the lease agreement, the tenant is still liable to rent, until such time as a replacement has been found.

It is important to note that:

  • A lease agreement is a legally binding document and once signed both parties much perform in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The tenant commits to the full term of the lease and rent is usually due on or before the first day of each month.
  • A deposit cannot be offset against last month’s rental. The deposit is the landlord’s only security and can be used only to repair any damages to the property incurred during the tenant’s term of lease.
  • Evicting a problematic tenant is onerous, which is why employing a reputable estate agent is vital. Landlords are entitled to do their homework before enlisting an agent, taking experience, reputation and track record into consideration. They should also consider factors like follow-up service, costs payable for services rendered, and whether the agency offers credit checks and tenant screenings. Procedures of invoicing, carrying out inspections and debt collection should also be investigated.
  • Once a lease has expired, and should the landlord and tenant then decide to enter into a month-to-month agreement, they need to inform the agent of their intentions, according to Carol Reynolds, area principal for Pam Golding Properties in the Durban North and La Lucia areas. However, the agent should agree to a reduced renewal fee for assisting them in regard to any legalities.
  • The Rental Housing Act [No 50 of 1999] provides for the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals (RHT) and grants them the authority to settle disputes between tenants and landlords.
    – Gauteng RHT (011) 355 4209
    – Western RHT (021) 483 2111
    – KwaZulu-Natal RHT (031) 336 5300
    – North-West RHT (018) 387 6057
    – Limpopo RHT (015) 294 2241
    – Northern Cape RHT (053) 830 9444
    – Mpumalanga RHT (013) 766 6200
    – Eastern Cape RHT not established
    – Free State RHT not established

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