There is no drama series that is more thrilling than a dysfunctional relationship between a tenant and Umastendi. From Tenants who constantly duck and dive come month end, to the shady landlord who promises you the world only for you to not even have hot water. The tenant who tries to enter their unit but sadly finds that their key no longer works or for the lights to go off, just before they find out who has won the latest season of Idols (Yawns).

We have all seen and heard of these scenarios playing out. Some of us have even been a part of them (Clears throat). Well the new Rental Housing Amendment Act; which regulates the relationship between a tenant and UMastandi (Landlord), makes amendments to the Rental Housing Act of 1999 with 5 key changes that add more certainty and less controversy to this drama series:

He said, she said – All Lease agreements must be in writing

All lease agreements must now be in writing and legally enforceable. The agreement and all provisions, obligations and duties must be explained to the tenant and clearly understood. All amendments to the lease must also be in writing. This ensures that both parties are aware of what they are getting themselves into and brings verbal agreements and verbal amendments to an end!

The basics – The property must be habitable

The landlord must ensure that the rental property is in a habitable state and that it is safe and suitable for living, properly maintained and has access to basic services such as water and electricity.

Less Drama – Tenant may not be denied access basic services or to the property

Umastandi may not cut off basic utilities such as electricity and water to non-paying tenants, only a local authority can do so. An Umastandi may also not change the locks or deny the tenant access to the property without a proper court order.

The Molla – Deposit must be invested and refunded

The Act also clearly states that the deposit must be put into an interest-bearing account. The landlord must issue a written receipt for all payments received from the tenant, including the deposit. The deposit together with interest accrued must be paid to the tenant within seven days of the expiration of the lease. Reasonable costs incurred to repair damage may be deducted from the deposit, but subject to proof of damage and the costs. This is very important! Landlords can’t just deduct from your deposit without proof of damage and associated costs!

What’s what – Defects to be recorded

At the commencement of the lease, a joint inspection of the property must be done to identify any defects including those that need to be repaired by the landlord. The defects list must be attached to the lease agreement. Upon expiry, another inspection must be done to determine whether any damage has been caused during the tenant’s occupancy.

Rental disputes

Rental disputes between tenants and landlords which cannot be amicably overcome, can be taken to the Rental Tribunal. This is an independent party and their services are free and can be used by tenants, landlords and property agents. The tribunal has the power to determine issues relating to, amongst others, non-payment of rentals, failure to refund deposits, overcrowding, unacceptable living conditions, harassment and intimidation, lack of maintenance, determination of fair rentals, unlawful seizure of tenant’s belongings, discrimination, exploitive rentals, illegal lock-out or illegal disconnections. For more information, download this Pdf