The Rental Housing Act recognises the right of property owners to receive a reasonable return on their investment, but obliges them to look after their properties and treat tenants fairly. The law imposes the following obligations on landlords:

In advertising a dwelling for purpose of leasing it, or in negotiating a lease with a prospective tenant, or during the term of a lease, a landlord may not unfairly discriminate against such prospective tenant/s, or members of such tenant's household, visitors or family members, on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth.

A landlord is free to charge any rent he/she wishes, keeping in mind that it should be reasonable. A lease between a landlord and tenant need not be in writing, however, if a tenant insists that it is the landlord must comply with it.

The landlord must issue the tenant with a written receipt for every payment received. If the tenant pays a deposit, the landlord must invest it in an interest bearing bank account, and a written statement should be available of the interest earned whenever the tenant ask for one.

The landlord has the right to prompt and regular payment of rental. If the rent is not received on time the landlord reserves the right to sue the tenant for dept or obtain a court order to evict him/her from the property.

Terms and conditions of a lease agreement:

In terms of the Rental Housing Act, a lease must contain the following minimum information:

  • the landlord's name and address;
  • the tenant's name and address;
  • a description of the property, e.g. its address;
  • how much rent the tenant must pay and details of any escalation (increases in rent);
  • any other moneys which the tenant must pay;
  • when the rent must be paid - it is usually at the beginning of each calendar month;
  • how much deposit the tenant must pay as security for any damage he or she might cause;
  • the period of the lease - if there is no specific period, the lease must state how much notice must be given to end it;
  • the landlord's and tenant's obligations towards each other;
  • a list of existing defects to the property;
  • any house rules that the tenant will have to obey; and
  • a list of furniture and fittings (if the property is being let as a furnished unit).

How to go about letting your property:

When renting your property you, as the owner, have the choice between managing the property yourself or employing an estate agency to manage the property for you. Letting (renting) a property requires compliance with many legal obligations in terms of the Rental Housing Act and the help of an estate agency can reduce risks and will avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety.

If you decide to let the property privately, keep in mind that a private rental agreement requires considerable effort and there are some hidden pitfalls you should be aware of. When renting out your property you first need to decide how much rent you want to charge. Unless your property is rent-controlled (which very few are nowadays), you are free to charge any rent you wish. However, you need to be realistic and charge a rent that a tenant is willing to pay. This is usually influenced by the rents being charged for other properties in the neighbourhood, and by the condition and features of the property. Your second step will be to find a tenant. The best way is to advertise in the newspaper and/or the Internet. Alternatively you can display a "to let" sign outside your property. If someone wants to rent your property, you are advised to do a credit reference and ask for proof of the applicant's income.

However, if you decide to use the services of an estate agency, the incumbent will have the following obligations:

  • advise you on a market-related rental for your property;
  • show and advertise your property;
  • receive offers from prospective tenants;
  • check their credit records and other references;
  • present the applications to you for a decision;
  • draw up a lease contract between yourself and the successful applicant;
  • inspect the property with the tenant prior to the tenant moving in;
  • collect the tenant's deposit and keep it in an interest-bearing trust account;
  • receive the rent each month, and pay it over to you;
  • handle all complaints and inspect the property regularly to ensure that the property is being maintained.

If you use an estate agency, you will have to pay commission for the services rendered. There is no fixed commission rate in South Africa and commission is therefore negotiable. You are free to 'shop around' for the best price, but make sure that you get the service and support you want.

Disputes

If there is a dispute between a tenant and a landlord, either or both of them can refer it to the Rental Housing Tribunal for the province in which the property is situated. The tribunal has the power to take evidence, hold hearings, make decisions, and issue orders. Contact the provincial government for details.

Please note: We have compiled this information in good faith, but we accept no liability for any errors, or for any use that is made of it, or for any problems or damage that may arise as a result of using or acting upon this information.