Tag Archives: Landlord

What tenants need to know to protect their rights


Must my residential lease agreement be in writing?

It is currently not a requirement for a residential lease agreement to be in writing – a verbal agreement where the rent and rented property is identified is recognized by South African common law and is just as valid as a written agreement. This may, however, not remain the position for much longer. The Rental Housing Amendment Act, which is not in operation yet, requires that all lease agreements should be in writing, and places the onus of ensuring compliance herewith on the Landlord. A lease agreement must, however, be reduced to writing if the tenants requests this from the landlord.

As a rule, it is preferable to enter into a written lease agreement, as it brings a measure of certainty regarding the contractual terms, rights, and duties. Verbal lease agreements often lead to “he-said-she-said” disputes and conflict.

Leases can also be formed by conduct alone. For example, if you as a tenant pay the owner of the property a monthly amount and they accept the money on the shared understanding that the payment is paid in exchange for the tenant being allowed to live in the rented property, then there is a lease agreement between the parties. Such an agreement can easily lead to conflict when one of the parties unilaterally change their conduct by, for example, paying a lesser monthly amount or sending an electricity bill to the tenant where the owner had always paid it in the past.

How long can my lease endure?

A fixed-term lease may endure for a maximation period of 24 months in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. This restriction only applies to natural persons. It may, however, be possible for a lease to endure for a longer period (as stipulated in the lease agreement) if the parties can show that there is a demonstratable financial benefit to the lessee.

In what condition must the lease premises be when I move in?

The Landlord must make the premises available for occupation in a condition reasonably fit for the purpose for which it was let, namely human habitation. The general state of the property should be well-documented during the ingoing inspections by listing and taking photographs of any defects. It is advisable for the tenant to view and inspect the premises before signing the lease agreement, to ensure that the premises are in a good and safe condition.

Can I sublet the lease premises?

This will depend on the agreement. If there is no clause in the written lease agreement making provision for Subletting, a lessee will be entitled to sublet the property without the Landlords consent. The latter is qualified in that the proposed sublessee must not be a person to whom the original lessor could reasonably object. If the lease does make provision for Subletting, the provisions of the lease agreement must be followed.

What can I do if my landlord does not keep up their side of the bargain?

The Landlord is bound to the terms and conditions of the lease just like the tenant is. The Landlord’s duties in terms of the lease can therefore be enforced in various ways. If the dispute cannot be resolved on an informal basis, the first port of call will be the lease agreement. The written lease agreement may make provision for disputes and the steps to be taken during a dispute. In the absence of such a clause, the tenant can lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal. The Rental Housing Tribunal resolves complaints through dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and arbitration. The parties can also approach their attorneys for legal advice.

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)

The rental relationship during lockdown


The relationship between landlord and tenant is a symbiotic one, where the efforts of either party results in the best outcome for both parties. During the lockdown, this two-way relationship between many tenants and landlords has been threatened. The biggest contributor to this is quite simple: a lack of information.

Paying your dues

One of the biggest impacts the lockdown has had on tenants is through affected income. Unfortunately, tenants are still required to pay the full rental amount if they are still able to occupy the property, regardless of how their income has been affected. Where income has been affected, tenants should discuss the possibility of a reduced rent directly with their landlords.
Landlords, however, also rely on rental income and cannot always afford to lower rental amounts. When this is the case, tenants can, technically, apply to the Rental Housing Tribunal to request a reduction in rent, but due to new cases not being heard at the moment, such a request is unlikely to be successful. The best option is for tenants to apply for State assistance, and so ensuring the least impact on both parties.
With these types of requests, it is important to note that landlords will have to be furnished with relevant personal information of the tenant to corroborate a tenant’s inability to pay their rent. The landlord will, however, be responsible for guarding the privacy of their tenant’s personal information in such a case.

Sticking to the rules

Even when the relationship is no longer a beneficial one, and becomes filled with strife, landlords may not terminate a lease or refuse services to tenants and may not insist on conducting an investigation of the property without the tenant’s express permission. Similarly, tenants may not cancel their leases during this time either. Such “threatening” actions are highly discouraged while the country is in any level of the lockdown.
As before, a tenant’s deposit may not legally be used to cover rental arrears, but only for its intended post-rental purposes. Deposits, along with the accrued interest, must be refunded to the tenants upon their exit, where only the necessary cost of repairs may be deducted.
Landlords are also still responsible for the maintenance of their properties, and for ensuring liveable conditions for their tenants. During any maintenance procedures landlords and workmen are obliged to adhere to social distancing and must follow adequate sanitising methods throughout. The landlord must also provide the necessary clothing and equipment for the procedures to be completed themselves.

End of lease

But while tenants may not be evicted and leases may not be terminated, the reality is that leases do come to an end. As far as possible, tenants and landlords are encouraged to continue their relationship, even if just on a month-to-month basis until moving house can be done without safety hazard. Where the continuance of a lease is not possible, tenants should obtain a permit from the SAPS allowing them to move freely during their relocation, and follow strict safety measures throughout the process.

For more information, visit the Western Cape Government’s information page.

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)

Before signing a lease


Tenants often take the signing of a lease agreement lightly and don’t read carefully through the terms and conditions. A proper lease agreement will ensure that both parties’ rights are protected. Landlords must ensure that they include all the necessary information in a lease agreement, while tenants must make sure that all the points discussed with the landlord are included in the lease, instead of just assuming that they are.

Enquire about costs and duration

The monthly rental cost and duration of the lease (including specific dates) must clearly be stated in the lease agreement to avoid any confusion regarding this matter. The lease agreement should also clearly indicate how and when any increases in rent will take place. If the landlord doesn’t provide you with this information, ask him/her to give it to you in writing so you can keep it on record.

The lease should also clearly explain any deposits (e.g. the rental deposit) that have to be paid, as well as the terms and conditions regarding the refund of deposits. All other variable usage expenses (like water or electricity) that the tenant will have to pay should also be clearly stated.

Some rental properties include utilities within the monthly rental cost, while others don’t. Some properties might offer on-site gym memberships, for example, which could save you money. Before you sign the lease to a property, ask your landlord what is included in the rental rate.

Get information regarding changes to the property

Once the landlord has agreed to rent out his property to you, make sure that you document any pre-existing damages to the property and its amenities before you sign the lease. Ask whether these damages can be fixed at the landlord’s expense.

Both the landlord and the tenant are responsible for the maintenance of the property. The responsibilities of both parties should be clearly stated in the lease agreement. The lease agreement should also indicate how the tenant must report any problems that require repair.

Make sure which amendments can be made to the property. Rather know the rules and stick to them, instead of making an alteration and then finding out afterwards that your landlord is unhappy with it. Just imagine your landlord’s disgust after finding out that you’ve repainted his freshly white-painted walls red!


Tenants should be sure to understand the contents contained in the lease agreement and that they understand all the clauses, terms and conditions to avoid any surprises later. While renting a property isn’t as much of a financial commitment as buying a home is, tenants should remember that a lease is nevertheless a legally binding document, meaning that they should make sure that they agree with everything contained therein before they sign it.

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)

What are tenant and landlord duties?

article2_img_blogWhen it comes to letting a property – both the tenant and the landlord should always enter into any letting agreements openly and honestly and intending for each party to get proper value. Often it’s the approach which the parties adopt which will determine whether the relationship between the parties and the benefits they derive therefrom is mutually satisfactory. Furthermore, there are important duties that each party is expected to do.

Non-Statutory Law (Common Law)

The tenant is obliged to:

  • Pay the proper amount of rent in the proper commodity at the proper place and time.
  • Take good care of the property and not use it for other purposes than for which it was let.
  • Restore it to the same condition that he received it at termination of the lease.
  • Common law states simply that the full rent must be paid at the proper time – the time and date agreed by both the tenant and the landlord. It does not provide the tenant with a 7-day grace period.

Statuary Law (The Rental Housing Act)

The tenant is obliged to:

  • Make prompt and regular payment of rent and other charges payable in terms of the lease.
  • Make payment of a deposit – the amount of which should be agreed upfront between the landlord and tenant.
  • Have a joint incoming and outgoing inspection with the landlord.

The property owner

The prime duty of a property owner is to give a tenant occupation and control of the property. Furthermore, the owner has to maintain the property in its proper condition, subject to fair wear and tear (defined as the ‘unavoidable consequence of the passage of time’). The owner must also ensure that normal running repairs to the property are carried out.

A second important duty of the owner is a guarantee that the tenant will enjoy the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the property for the duration of the lease. This duty has three facets:

  • The property owner must not unlawfully interfere with the tenant’s rights although he or she is entitled, in certain circumstances, to interfere lawfully if, for instance, the tenant has to vacate the premises temporarily to allow necessary repairs to be done. Although an owner also has a right of inspection, this right must be exercised in a reasonable manner.
  • The owner must protect the tenant against being disturbed by ‘third parties’ who may claim a stronger right to the property than the tenant. For example, if you sub-let property from a lessee whose lease is invalid (perhaps because it has not been drawn up properly), you could be evicted by the original owner of the property. If this happens, the person who sub-let the property to you is obliged to protect you from being evicted.





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).

Tenant and landlord: What are your rights and obligations?

A2_GTSandra would like to move into her own place but like many people she is unsure what a lease is and what responsibilities it will place on her. A lease agreement is defined as the agreement entered into between the tenant and the landlord for the leasing of a property. The lease agreement regulates the rights and obligations of both parties and protects the parties mutually.

The Rental Housing Act No 50/1999, as amended by the Rental Housing Amendment Act No 43/2007, regulates the relationship between a tenant and a landlord, even before commencement of the lease agreement.

The Act determines that the landlord may not discriminate against the prospective tenant, his family or friends, including on grounds of race, sex, pregnancy or marital status. This applies as early as placing an ad for the leasing of a property or even during negotiations between prospective tenants and the landlord.

The lease itself does not have to be in writing to be binding on both parties and should a tenant request that an oral agreement be reduced to writing, the landlord may not refuse the request.

A written lease agreement must contain the following information:

  1. The names of the parties, as well as their South African addresses;
  2. A description of the property being leased;
  3. The monthly rental payable and reasonable increases;
  4. The deposit payable, if applicable;
  5. The period for which the property will be leased. Should the agreement not mention a specific period of lease, the agreement must indicate the notice period required should one of the parties wish to terminate the contract;
  6. Any other consideration, besides the monthly rent, which may be payable;
  7. A complete list of defects that are present at the time that the parties entered into the lease agreement.

If the property is situated in a complex that has its own rules, a copy of those rules should be attached to the lease agreement. The landlord must ensure that he/she gives effect to the provisions contained in the lease agreement.

As mentioned, mutual rights and obligations are created for both parties in the lease agreement. These rights and obligations include the following:

Tenant’s rights:

  1. To jointly inspect the property before the tenant moves in and record any defects or damage to the property. This provision protects the tenant at the end of the lease period to ensure that the tenant will not be held liable for damages that already existed at the time the lease was entered into.
  2. During the lease period, the tenant has the right to privacy and the tenant’s property, home or person may not be searched.
  3. If the landlord fails to inspect the property upon expiry of the lease, the tenant can assume that the landlord acknowledges that no damage has been done to the property, and that the full deposit, together with interest thereon, must be refunded to the tenant.

Landlord’s rights:

  1. To request a deposit, in the amount agreed upon between the parties, before the tenant takes occupation of the property.
  2. To receive timeous payment of the monthly rent and also to collect overdue payments, after a court order or order from a Tribunal has been obtained.
  3. To receive the property in a good condition upon termination of the lease.
  4. To jointly inspect the property within three days before the lease expires and determine if any damage has been done to the property for which the tenant should be held liable.
  5. To recover the cost of repairs, should the property be damaged, from the tenant.
  6. Should the tenant not give access to the property for a joint inspection before expiry of the lease, the landlord should inspect the property within seven days after expiry of the lease and utilise the deposit for necessary repairs. The balance of the deposit, if any, should be refunded to the tenant within twenty-one days.

Landlord’s obligations:

  1. To invest the tenant’s deposit in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution, with an interest rate equal to or higher than the interest rate at that time earned on a savings account at such financial institution. The tenant may request proof that the deposit is invested and the landlord may not withhold such evidence.
  2. To furnish the tenant with a receipt for each payment made by the tenant, which receipt should clearly describe the property, be dated, and indicate in full what the payment is made for (e.g. Rent for the month of February 2013, or deposit).
  3. To utilise the deposit to repair any damage to the property or to recover arrears rent after expiry of the lease, and to pay the balance together with interest earned thereon to the tenant within fourteen days after the expiry of the lease.
  4. To keep all receipts in respect of repairs done to the property which were deducted from the tenant’s deposit, and make such receipts available to the tenant.
  5. To refund the tenant’s deposit together with interest thereon, within seven days of the expiry of the lease, in the event that no repairs are to be made to the property.

Should a dispute arise between the parties, the Rental Housing Tribunal in the area where the dispute arises, can be contacted.

It is very important for both the tenant and the landlord to make sure that their intentions are clearly defined in the lease and that they understand the terms of the lease before the lease agreement is signed. All provisions, responsibilities and obligations should also be clearly set out in the agreement. It is advisable to seek legal advice if any uncertainties arise, before the lease agreement is signed.


  • Rental Housing Act No 50/1999, as amended by Rental Housing Amendment Act No 43/2007

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)