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Tenants and landlords should know their rights

One of the most important aspects that potential landlords should consider before deciding to let out a property is a tenant’s rights and what implications they have if the contract turns bad at any stage during the period that the tenant occupies the property, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“Times have changed over the years and removing a tenant from a property is far more difficult than it used to be, even if that tenant is defaulting on their monthly payment. Landlords who overlook a tenant’s rights and use illegal or unfair methods to remove the delinquent tenant from the property will be dealt with severely by the courts. This emphasises the importance of researching tenant’s legal rights, along with thoroughly vetting all potential tenants before they take occupation of a property,” says Goslett.

He notes that anyone considering letting out a residential property should familiarise themselves with the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act (PIE) Act. “While the Act has been in effect for some time, with access to so much more information, tenants are becoming far more aware of their rights and landlords need to know what they can and cannot do. Although the systems were put in place to protect both parties, the Act weighs in the tenant’s favour,” says Goslett. “A landlord cannot under any circumstances resort to eviction tactics such as changing the locks, cutting off water and electricity or forcibly removing a tenant that hasn’t paid rent without receiving authority from the courts to do so.”

“As much has tenants have rights and those rights should be protected, it is also the responsibility of the tenant to ensure that they keep to their end of the agreement and look after the property as if it were their own,” says Goslett.

According to Goslett, the relationship between the tenant and landlord should be based on mutual respect with both parties benefiting from the arrangement. A tenant should ensure that the rent is paid timeously on a monthly basis and the landlord needs to ensure that the property is maintained and kept in a satisfactory condition.

He notes that the Rental Housing Tribunal administers the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999, facilitating relations between tenants and landlords. The responsibilities of the Tribunal include advising tenants and landlords of their rights and obligations as well as resolving issues. The Housing Tribunal has mediating facilities and if the issue cannot be resolved over the table, then a hearing will be called. It is worth noting that a ruling of the Tribunal is deemed to be an order of a magistrate ‘s court in terms of the Magistrate ‘s  Court Act,1944 (Act No 32 of 1944).

The most common issues raised with the Tribunal include:

• Failure to refund deposits
• Unlawful notice to vacate
• Exorbitant increases in the rental
• Failure to pay rent
• Unlawful seizure of possessions
• Failure to reduce the lease to writing 

It is important for landlords to do their research and handle their rental portfolio in a professional manner erring on the side of caution.  “Landlords have certain obligations and procedures that they need to adhere to. The landlord needs to know these procedures, just has it is equally important for tenants to become familiar with their rights.

“Landlords and tenants who can maintain a good relationship will reap the rewards of a mutually beneficial agreement,” Goslett concludes.


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