Share This Post
Getting your full rental deposit back from an uncooperative landlord can be a daunting task. Confrontation can be difficult and uncomfortable; you may not even understand your rights under the law.
Fortunately, some steps can be taken to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible ( even if it requires further escalation) and that your landlord doesn’t take advantage of you.
Seeff recommends that you take the following steps to ensure that disagreements are dealt with amicably and that your landlord ultimately pays back your rental deposit.
Collect any documentation, such as photos or videos of the property, from before and after you moved in.
In addition, gather receipts for any home maintenance, repairs, or cleaning you did, and any communication with the landlord regarding the rental deposit. Anything indicative of pre-existing damage may be helpful. There may be enough evidence in your own records to persuade your landlord to pay back what they owe.
Documents to look for include the following:
It also might be worthwhile asking friends or neighbours if they have any evidence, such as pictures, showing the property's condition before you moved in. This may help resolve the dispute.
The more orderly your records are, the less challenging the next step in the process will be.
Review the terms of your lease to see if it specifies how and when your rental deposit will be returned.
Once you understand the details of your lease, check the Rental Housing Act to see if your landlord has been compliant.
The RHA stipulates the following:
If you cannot resolve the issue through mediation, you may want to consider taking your landlord to a Small Claims Court. This is a legal process where you can present your case and evidence to get your rental deposit back. Here are some important things to note about this process:
Once discussed with the Clerk, it will be necessary to write and issue a 14-day letter of demand to your landlord, which you can deliver yourself or send directly from the Clerk. You can find a template for a letter of demand online, provided by the South African government.
In fine print at the bottom of the document, the letter demand states, “Unless you comply with this demand within 14 (fourteen) days after receipt of this letter, summons will be issued against you in the Small Claims Court”.
Should your landlord fail to respond, the Clerk will issue an official summons and guide you accordingly.
If the above steps do not resolve the issue, consider seeking legal help from an attorney specialising in landlord-tenant law to get your rental deposit back.
An attorney with relevant qualifications could give invaluable advice on your legal rights and obligations under South African law.
With assistance in navigating the complexities of the Rental Housing Act, it will be easier to understand how it applies to the situation, build a stronger case, and get your rental deposit back.
An attorney can offer the following:
Hiring an attorney is a great way to ensure fair treatment and the protection of your rights. However, it can be a costly process. It is, therefore, worthwhile to explore other options first and treat hiring an attorney as a last resort.
If all the above steps fail, then you can contact the Rental Housing Tribunal, a government body established to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. They can provide mediation services and make a ruling on the case.
The RHT is designed to provide a fair and cost-effective way of settling disputes and help ensure that landlords and tenants are treated fairly in their dealings. Before relying on the RHT, note the following:
There are several ways to navigate rental deposit challenges with your landlord. But don’t let them overwhelm you. It is best to navigate these steps to avoid any unnecessary escalations, as this can be both stressful and costly.
At Seeff, we understand the challenges of dealing with an uncooperative landlord. Contact us today for advice and guidance, or read our Home Story blog for a quick and easy guide on how to keep your landlord happy at your new home.