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The rental housing act a little known act with huge consequences.

Written by  Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes
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The rental housing act a little known act with huge consequences. The rental housing act a little known act with huge consequences.

The Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 (“the Act”) came into effect on 1 August 2000.  The aims of the Act are to regulate the relationship between tenants and landlords by laying down general requirements relating to leases, making provision for the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals in each province, and establishing principles to govern conflict resolution in the rental housing sector. The Act furthermore defines a “landlord” as the owner of a dwelling or his/her authorised agent. 

Two crucial provisions contained in this Act are discussed below. The first is that the Act provides that a lease does not have to be in writing, but a landlord must reduce it to writing if a tenant requests him/her to do so. In addition, certain provisions are deemed to be included in the agreement. In other words, the provisions form part of the agreement whether or not the parties actually agreed thereon or included it in their written or verbal agreement.

These deemed provisions include:

  • That the landlord must furnish the tenant with written receipts for all payments received.
  • That deposits paid by the tenant to the landlord/agent must be invested by the landlord/agent in an interest-bearing account with a financial institution and the landlord/agent must pay the tenant interest at the rate applicable to a savings account with a financial institution. The tenant may request the landlord/agent to provide him/her with written proof in respect of the interest accrued on the deposit, and the landlord/agent must provide this on request.
  • That the tenant and landlord/agent jointly, before the tenant moves into the dwelling, inspect the dwelling to ascertain whether or not there are any defects or damage to the dwelling. If there are any defects or damage, it must be recorded in writing and attached as an annexure to the lease.
  • That, at the expiration of the lease, the landlord/agent and tenant must arrange a joint inspection of the dwelling to take place within a period of three days prior to the expiration of the lease. This is necessary, amongst other things, to determine whether the tenant caused any damage to the premises during the period of the lease.
  • That, on the expiration of the lease, the landlord/agent may apply the deposit and interest towards the payment of all amounts for which the tenant remains liable under the lease, including the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period. The balance of the deposit and interest, if any, must then be refunded to the tenant by the landlord/agent not later than 14 days after the tenant has vacated the dwelling.
  • That the receipts which indicate the costs which the landlord/agent incurred in repairing any damage to the dwelling must be made available to the tenant for inspection as proof of the costs incurred.
  • That, should no amounts be due and owing to the landlord/agent in terms of the lease, the deposit, together with the accrued interest, must be refunded by the landlord/agent to the tenant, without any deduction or set-off, within seven days of expiration of the lease.
  • That, failure by the landlord/agent to inspect the dwelling in the presence of the tenant upon the expiry of the lease, is deemed to be an acknowledgement by the landlord/agent that the dwelling is in a good state of repair. The landlord/agent will then have no further claim against the tenant and must then refund the full deposit plus interest to the tenant.

It is important to note that these standard provisions listed above are enforceable in court and may not be waived by the tenant or the landlord.

The second important provision relates to the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals (“Tribunals”) in each province. Complaints may be lodged by mail or facsimile or delivered in person to the office of a Tribunal. Any dispute that arose as a result of an unfair practice (as defined the Act) must be determined by a Tribunal unless proceedings have already been instituted in another court. However, a person retains the right to approach an ordinary court to institute proceedings for the recovery of arrear rental or for eviction in the absence of a dispute regarding an unfair practice. A ruling by the Tribunal is deemed to be an order of the magistrate’s court in terms of the Magistrate’s Court Act, 1944 and the proceedings of a Tribunal may be brought under review before the High Court within its area of jurisdiction. 

Contact details for the Rental Housing Tribunals:

Western Cape Housing Tribunal:
27 Wale Street, Ground Floor, Cape Town
Call centre: 0860 106 166Fax: 021 483 2060

Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal:
Ten Sixty Six building, 14th FloorNo. 35 Pritchard Streets (Cnr Harrison and Pritchard Str)Johannesburg
Tel: 011 630 5035Fax: 011 630 5057

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes

Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes