Landlord Responsibilities in South Africa: What You Need To Know

    Step out confidently into the property market as a new landlord with this guide to a landlord's responsibilities in South Africa. 

    Lease agreements. Rent. Laws and regulations. Tenants. There is a lot to figure out when you are a landlord. If tenants do not pay their rent, can you evict them? What does South African law say about a landlord's right to terminate a lease agreement? As the landlord, are you responsible for a property's maintenance, or are your tenants responsible? 

    Read on for what you need to know about landlord responsibilities in South Africa. 

    What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities?

    Landlords in South Africa have numerous responsibilities. It is best to be aware of these duties upfront so you can avoid any complications with either rental agents or future tenants. 

    Do your research or find an experienced real estate agent who will help you navigate these responsibilities.  

    A landlord's responsibilities include:

    • Delivering the property to the tenant for their use and enjoyment. The landlord must provide everything necessary for the tenant to use and enjoy the property, such as the property's keys. 
    • Maintaining the interior and exterior of the property. Regular upkeep will ensure the property stays in good condition for the duration of the lease agreement.
    • Ensuring the tenant's undisturbed use and enjoyment of the property; for example, respecting the tenant's right to privacy. The exception is when the landlord would notify the tenant of a disturbance or where it was specified in the lease agreement (for example, in the event of necessary repairs).
    • Paying the property's rates and taxes imposed by the municipality (unless otherwise agreed to in the lease agreement - for example, in the case of electricity).

    Landlord Responsibilities Regarding Rent 

    Can you charge any amount of rent? No. While you might assume that you can fix an amount covering your bond maintenance costs and ensuring a profit, it's not that straightforward. 

    • Every area has a range in terms of rentals which can be charged to attract tenant interest, and there are always price ceilings. Even if your property is the biggest in the neighbourhood, it does not necessarily mean you will receive a higher rate. 

    It's also worth considering affordability. In South Africa's property market today, tenants are looking for affordable homes. With that in mind, a steep price is not achievable unless you make significant home improvements to boost your property value - thus justifying the high rental. 

    Should You Hire a Rental Agent?

    Rental agents can make your job as a landlord easier. They provide the skills and expertise you lack and save you time and frustration. A professional EAAB  (Estate Agency Affairs Board) registered property expert will also confirm that the stranger you are placing in your property meets your requirements while considering the potential risk. 

    Rental agents are qualified to do the following:

    • Assist with proper rental valuations.
    • Provide expert advice.
    • Assist when there is a discrepancy between landlord and tenant.

    Landlord Responsibilities Regarding a Lease

    Regarding the Rental Housing Act amendment, a landlord must provide their tenant with a lease. A lease agreement does not have to be written unless the tenant specifically requests it. 

    A lease must include: 

    • The rental amount payable by the tenant.
    • A description of the property.
    • Names of the parties involved. 

    Ensure that the lease agreement is watertight because tenants have many protections. The CPA (Consumer Protection Act), for example, allows the tenant the right to terminate for no reason whatsoever, subject to agreed penalties (which must be specified in the lease agreement).

    When Can a Landlord Terminate a Lease?

    • On its expiration date, or:
    • When the landlord decides to cancel the lease (with notice) in the event of breach or insolvency. 
    • If a tenant fails to meet the obligations outlined in the lease agreement, this would be a breach. The landlord may rely on the following to remedy the situation: 
      • Notify the person (in writing) to fix their violation within a specific time.
      • If the tenant fails to settle their breach within the time provided, the landlord can either:
        • keep the lease agreement in place and sue for specific performance and claim for damages; or
        • cancel the lease agreement and sue for damages and/or eviction of the tenant if they are still staying on the property. 

    A Landlord’s Rights In South Africa 

    According to South Africa’s Rental Housing Act, a landlord’s rights include: 

    • “Prompt and regular payment of a rental or any charges that may be payable in terms of a lease.
    • Recover unpaid rental or any other amount that is due and payable after obtaining a ruling by the Tribunal or an order of a court of law.
    • Terminate the lease in respect of rental housing property on the grounds that do not constitute an unfair practice and are specified in the lease.
    • On termination of a lease to
      • (j) receive the rental housing property in a good state of repair, save for fair wear and tear: and 
      • (ii) repossess rental housing property having first obtained an order of the court:
    • Claim compensation for damage to the rental housing property or any other improvements on the land on which the dwelling is situated, if any, caused by the tenant, a member of the tenant's household, or a visitor of the tenant.”

    For more information on a landlord's rights pertaining to leases, read the Rental Housing Act, available online as a downloadable pdf. 

    Laws and Regulations in South Africa

    The rental sector is regulated by several laws, most notably the Rental Housing Act and its amendments. As a landlord, you need to be aware of these laws. 

    Some of the applicable laws include: 

    • The property must be fit for habitation. 
    • You must invest your tenant's deposit in an interest-bearing account for the tenant’s benefit.
    • You cannot just deduct anything off the deposit without following due process, and 
    • You must refund the deposit within a prescribed timeframe.

    Explore Seeff’s landlord services for guidance and more information on a landlord’s responsibilities.

    Author: Amy Wannenburgh
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