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Ever wondered if your landlord is playing fair with your deposit for a rental property? You should always have a lease agreement in place with your landlord, but if you don’t, or your lease does not mention any of the specifics below, then common law and the Rental Housing Act applies, and the landlord is responsible (so long as you didn’t cause the damage through negligence, abuse/misuse, an accident or you agreed in writing to take responsibility for specific repairs). Scorpion Legal Protection gives you 6 things your rental deposit may not be used for.
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the property is in good and safe working order. This includes making sure that the electricity supply, plumbing system, door fixtures and windows are working and unbroken, as well as maintaining things like garage/gate motors, fences and alarms (if applicable). Also, if the landlord rents the property with a geyser, stove, refrigerator or any other appliances, it is the landlord’s duty to ensure these are in working order at the time of entering into the lease and during the whole period of the lease (unless specifically otherwise stated in your contract).
Fair wear and tear is the natural and gradual deterioration of the property over time as a result of the tenant’s normal use of the property. For example: carpet wear caused by normal use or furniture marks in the carpet, faded wall paint, blinds and wooden window fittings, dirty grout, sliding doors that stick. The landlord may not deduct money from your deposit to pay for fair wear and tear to the property.
Some landlords may try to deduct money from your rental deposit as a “fine” for paying your rent late because they are annoyed. This is not allowed. Make sure you check your rental agreement if you make use of a rental agency though, as they sometimes include fees for late payment of rent in their agreements, and then you will be bound by this.
You have the right to demand that your landlord provide you with all receipts for any repairs they use your deposit money on. For example, your landlord hires a professional carpet cleaner for the bedroom carpet because you (the tenant) left it dirty. This would be a fair expense. But if the landlord decides to have the entire house’s carpets cleaned when this wasn’t necessary and takes the full cost of this from your rental deposit, that would be unfair.
This is why doing a pre-inspection is so important – anything you noted here is proof of the condition of the property when you moved in. Your landlord cannot claim the cost of repairing anything that was listed in the pre-inspection from your rental deposit.
Outgoing inspections are also a must. If the landlord does not do an outgoing inspection with the tenant, it is taken as an acknowledgment that the property is in a good state and the landlord will not have any further claims against the tenant’s deposit money, which must then be refunded.
Unless you specifically agree to share the costs in writing, the landlord is responsible for any improvements he/she decides to make to the property like adding a roof to the stoep, putting up a carport or putting in security doors. Important to note here is that the tenant cannot make improvements to the property and claim it from their rent without the landlord’s consent.
You may also be interested in:
3 things to check before signing: lease agreement
Is interest on overdue rent legal?
4 hidden costs in your rental agreement
We have a team of lawyers available to answer your legal questions every first Thursday of the month from 11:30 to 13:30 on the Scorpion Legal Protection Facebook page for free. Have your legal question answered on the spot at the Scorpion Live Q&A.
* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 31 August 2022
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