Get Insured. Most South African insurance companies will provide personal insurance that will protect your possessions and also cover any property damage that could endanger your deposit. Your landlord may have insurance that would help you in case of disaster but don’t rely on it.
Get everything in writing. In South Africa the law requires that every estate agent has a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC) and they are required to keep a copy of your bar-coded ID document and proof of address. If they don’t request these things from you then you should think carefully about whether or not they will provide a reliable service.
Be clear on what you will be required to pay. Agents often pass on costs to tenants such as water and electricity, transaction fees for cash deposits and management fees. Avoid potential surprises by getting a clear list of everything you will be expected to be responsible for, in writing.
Inspect the property with the landlord present before moving in and before moving out. The leaving inspection should occur at least three days before you move out to allow you time to fix any prob-lems that might affect your deposit. The landlord can deduct the costs of any repairs from your deposit but they must pay the balance or the whole refund within two weeks of the property being vacated.
The deposit paid to your landlord will vary but it is usually one to two months’ rent. They should keep it in a separate bank account where it will generate interest which should be paid over to you when the deposit is returned.
Be aware of security. Don’t make it easy for someone to burgle your home. Lock your windows as well as your doors when you go out and don’t keep a spare key under the mat, and don’t leave tools lying around somebody could use to break in. Remember most burglaries are crimes of opportunity committed in the daytime.
Rent difficulties. If for some reason you can’t afford to pay your rent then speak to your landlord. If they want to evict you they must give you a “notice of breach”, which states the breach of the lease agreement in writing. The landlord is not allowed to lock you out of the property, change the locks or remove any items belonging to you. Call the police if you get locked out, don’t try to break back in! If you’re late paying rent, the landlord should give you a chance to pay the amount owed but if that does not work they can sue for the outstanding amount as well as the loss of income for the re-mainder of the lease. That means it is important to keep them informed if you are having difficulty.
Sub-letting. If you want to sub-let to help reduce costs or occupy the property while you spend time away, ask for the landlord’s permission first as it could be a breach of your lease agreement.