O2. The Rental Housing Act, 50 of 1999

Aim of the Act

To define the responsibility of the Government in respect of rental housing property; to create mechanisms to promote the provision of rental housing property; to promote access to adequate housing through creating mechanisms to ensure the proper functioning of the rental housing market; to make provision for the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals; to define the functions, powers and duties of such Tribunals; to lay down general principles governing conflict resolution in the rental housing sector; to provide for the facilitation of sound relations between tenants and landlords and for this purpose to lay down general requirement ~ relating to leases; to repeal the Rent Control Act, 1976; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

The purpose of the act is to:

  • Regulate the relationships between landlords and tenants;
  • Provide alternative dispute resolution methods in the form of Rental Housing Tribunals; and
  • Set out the rights and duties of both the landlord and the tenant.

The rights of the tenant

Section 4(3) of the Act sets out the following rights of the tenant:

The tenant has the right to not have:

  • his or her person or home searched;
  • his or her property searched;
  • his or her possessions seized, except in terms of law of general application and having first obtained an order of the court: or
  • the privacy of his or her communications infringed.

Rights of the landlord

Section 4(5) of the Act sets out the following rights of the landlord:

The landlord’s rights against the tenant include his or her right to:

  • 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 grounds that do not constitute an unfair practice and are specified in the lease;
  • on termination of a lease to—
  • receive the rental housing property in a good state of repair, save for fair wear and tear: and
  • repossess rental housing property having first obtained an order of the court: and
  • 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.

It is important to note that PREVIOUSLY a lease between a tenant and landlord did not need to be in writing, however, ALL lease agreements are now required to be in writing and signed by both parties.

The standard provisions of a written lease agreement

Section 5(3) of the Act sets out the provisions to be included in a written lease agreement. These include things such as:

  • The requirement that the landlord must furnish the tenant with a written receipt for all payments which have been received.
  • The receipt furnished to the tenant must be dated and clearly indicate set out the address of the property for which payment has been made as well as the reason for payment e.g. in respect of rent, arrears or a deposit etc.;
  • The landlord may require a deposit and the deposit may not exceed an amount equivalent to an amount specified in the agreement or otherwise agreed on between the parties.
  • The deposit must be invested by the landlord in an interest-bearing account which interest will be payable to the tenant and may not be less than the rate applicable to a savings account with the financial institution in which the money is invested.
  • Both parties must inspect the dwelling to ascertain the existence or not of any defects or damage therein prior to occupation and with the aim of determining the landlord’s responsibility for rectifying or noting any defects or damage.
  • A joint inspection of the dwelling must be arranged at the expiration of the lease agreement with a view to determine if there was any damage caused during the tenant’s occupation.

These are only a few however the same is set out in Section 5(3) of the Act.

The information which must be included in a written lease agreement

  • The names of the parties and their domicillium addresses in South Africa for any formal communication.
  • The description of the property which is to be leased.
  • The rental amount and reasonable increases, if any, to be paid in terms of the lease.
  • Set out the frequency of rental payments.
  • The amount of the deposit, if any.
  • The lease period and should there be no lease period set out, the notice period required for the termination of the lease.
  • Obligations of both the tenant and the landlord.
  • The amount payable in respect of rental and any other charges which may be payable in addition to the rental amount in respect of the property being leased.

The rental housing tribunal

Any tenant or landlord or interested group may in the proposed manner lodge a complaint, concerning any unfair practices in respect of rentals, with this Tribunal.

The Tribunal must first try to resolve the dispute through mediation, and should mediation fail, the Tribunal must conduct a hearing and make a ruling which it considers just and fair under the circumstances.

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