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Letting advice for tenants

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.

letting advice for tenants

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.

One Response to Letting advice for tenants

  1. Anne says:

    More about tenants – please provide an article:

    It would help owners/ landlords if IEASA provided some guidelines. Below are some thoughts, but they must obviously be endorsed by an executive of IEASA.

    An article on your web page and in Property24 and in Paddocks web pages, and/or in newspapers, will help.

    How do we find a good rental agent? What questions should we ask?

    Thank you very much.



    Renting Residential Property – letting agents

    Ending the Landlord-Tenant Relationship

    Read landlord = rental agent = owner. To clarify only the word landlord is used, but in practice a letting agent will be dealing with the tenant.

    Security Deposits

    Must landlords hold security deposits in a separate bank account apart from other assets?

    the law imposes a requirement on landlords to keep the security deposit in a separate account from their own money–this makes sense because, legally speaking, the money does not belong to the landlord. A security deposit belongs to the tenant until it is later refunded or applied to cover unpaid rent or damage beyond normal wear and tear.

    Under what conditions does the landlord owe a refund of the security deposit?

    The landlord will owe the tenant a refund if the rent was paid in full and the cost of repairs is not beyond normal wear and tear. The tenant should insist on accompanying the landlord during the final inspection to verify the items claimed by the landlord to be “deducts,” and dispute the charges or explain why the damage is normal wear and tear.

    Are ( separate) deposits for each of cleaning, pets, parking, or garage door openers, remote security gate openers, ADT alarm remotes, keys for all doors also considered security deposits and, thus, refundable?

    Yes. If the tenant complies with all the terms of the lease agreement and leaves the place in good condition, the tenant should get most, if not all, of the money back, whether the lease calls it a security deposit or by some other name. In some states, however, the landlord may charge the tenant a nonrefundable fee for anticipated damage to the apartment. This is used most commonly for pets.

    What Can a Landlord Deduct From a Security Deposit for Cleaning and Repairs?
    Security deposit laws allow a landlord to deduct from a security deposit for any damage or excessive dirtiness, but not for any expected, normal wear-and-tear.

    Sometimes a security deposit is called a “damage deposit,” and is generally some amount of money that the landlord is able to hold on to if a rental property needs any cleaning or repairs, in order to return the property to the condition it was in when the renter first moved in. Security deposits are for the benefit and protection of the landlord in the event that something on the property is really dirty or broken at the end of a lease. Landlords are not allowed to deduct from a security deposit for any items that suffer only normal wear-and-tear.
    What Can and Cannot be Deducted from my Security Deposit?
    To clarify this point, here are some examples of things that landlords could deduct from a security deposit, meaning that the damage went beyond normal wear-and-tear:
    § Holes in walls from picture hangers

    § Broken tiles or fixtures in bathrooms

    § Stopped / blocked toilet due to misuse

    § Broken walls

    § Removing paint put up by tenant

    § Tears, holes or burn marks in carpets or curtains

    § Animal stains in the carpet caused by domestic animals or leaking fish tanks

    § Any stains on carpet

    § Broken windows and window screens

    § Broken doors and locks

    § Appliances broken by negligence

    § Excessive filth in over or on stove by burners

    § Clogged drains from misuse or negligence

    § Broken or missing window blinds

    § Flea and pest extermination

    § Mildew and mold in bathroom

    § Filthy bathtub, shower, sink, mirrors or toilet

    § Warped doors caused by temperature or rainwater due to negligent leaving open of door in thunderstorm

    § Broken lightbulbs

    § Broken appliances

    § Broken plumbing

    § Dents in walls from door handles

    Here is a list of things that are generally considered to be normal wear-and-tear which cannot, according to security deposit laws, be deducted from a security deposit:
    § Slightly Faded paint or wallpaper due to sunlight, should be carefully washed using SUGARSOAP and washed off with clean water 3 times.

    § Dirty blinds and curtains – should be professionally cleaned by tenant

    § Wall to wall carpet wear caused by normal use, despite tenants rug on the floor. Tenant should have carpet professionally cleaned two weeks before moving out to give wall to wall carpet time to dry out.

    § Furniture marks in carpet

    § Warped doors caused by age, temperature or moisture

    § Warped window frames caused by the flow of the glass

    § Dusting

    § Faded curtains

    § Picture or pin holes in walls, as long as very few.

    What happens if my Full Security Deposit is not returned?
    You have moved out of your old apartment or rental house and are settling into your new place when part of your old security deposit shows up with no explanation for the deductions. What are you to do?
    if a landlord does not return all of your security deposit, or returns a portion of the security deposit without a written explanation of everything that was deducted . The landlord must provide receipts for any repairs or cleaning.
    What Can I do to ensure that I get all of my Security Deposit Back?
    There has been a recent trend in renting and security deposit laws that allows a tenant to request a move-out inspection from the landlord 3 or 4 weeks BEFORE he moves out, in order to maximize the return of the security deposit. A tenant that is thinking of moving out can request that the landlord, or one of the landlord’s agents, walk through the rental unit and make a list of things that would be deducted from the security deposit if the tenant left right then and there, possibly 5 weeks before moving out. he can request a list of items to be checked so that he can attend to the, BEFOREHAND.
    By having such a list, the tenant can make the necessary repairs and cleaning himself, thus saving himself from the landlord hiring a professional and deducting the cost from the tenant’s security deposit.
    For example: Tenant Bill is going to move out of his apartment in 3 weeks, but he is worried that he won’t receive all of his security deposit back from his landlord, Larry. Bill requests that Larry walk through the apartment with him to point out anything that would be deducted from the security deposit. Larry notices that two of the doors inside the apartment are off their hinges and there is a stain, likely caused by Bill’s dog, on the living room carpet. Bill, who is rather handy, fixes both doors and steam cleans the carpet before moving out, thus avoiding these two deductions from his security deposit.