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The new Rental Housing Amendment Bill is on South Africa's doorstep

Although there is as yet no finality on when it will be enacted, the new Rental Housing Amendment Bill will almost certainly at some stage in the not-too-distant future be on the statute books and, says Shaun Groves, National Manager of the Rawson Property Group’s Rental Franchise division, every landlord should be aware of the changes that the new act will bring about (it should be noted, however, that the act will only be enforced six months after it has been enacted).

“One of the main successes”, said Groves, “is that where it previously (in terms of the Rental Housing Act of 1999) was stipulated that a rental agreement had to be in writing, only if the tenant asked for this – with the result that many agreements were only verbal – the new act insists that a lease has to be written and that certain specific clauses have to be contained within it.”

Although they have not yet been issued, provision has, it is said, been made by the relevant Government department to make standard leases available in all eleven official languages. However, said Groves, he would go along with such legal firms as Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes, who have recommended that these should be checked by an attorney operating in the landlord’s area and familiar with the special provisions that frequently apply to certain rented properties.

Among the other conditions which now become mandatory in terms of the new act, said Groves, is that it lays down that the tenant is entitled to receive written receipts for all the payments and that these have to include details of the address of the rented premises and whether the payment was for arrears, the deposit or standard rent (this condition was in fact implied in the existing act but often not acted on).

The new act, said Groves, tightened up the wording as regards to the landlord’s duties to maintain the premises at all times — and on time — without undue delays.  However, the wording here “to ensure that a building is fit or suitable to live in” could, says Groves, be open to a wide variety of interpretations.

The new ruling would ensure that all local authorities will have to establish a rental housing information office and every province will now have to have a Rental Housing Tribunal.

“As rental agreements have been abused both by landlords and by tenants, there was a serious need for advisory and decision making facilities of the kind now proposed”, said Groves. “This will therefore be welcome.”

The ruling as regards the final inspection to be done by the landlord and the tenant when a lease expires has also been slightly altered:  it is now the landlord’s duty to arrange this joint inspection with the tenant.  It is difficult to see how this is an improvement on the previous arrangement which places the responsibility of the inspection on both the landlord and tenant jointly.  However, the tenant, anxious to complete this process and get his deposit back as quickly as possible, will presumably, said Groves, still have the right to ask for such an inspection at the earliest possible date.

The final clause in the new act which states that the landlord must provide the necessary “facilities” is open to a wide range of interpretations, and could lead to disputes, said Groves.


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