The proposed Rental Housing Amendment Act has been a hot topic this week because of the effects the changes will have on landlords and tenants around South Africa. While the implementation date is yet to be set, experts believe it is fast approaching. Before we get into the potential effects it will have on South Africans, we’ll go through some basics.
What is the Rental Housing Amendment Act?
The Rental Housing Act outlines the powers and duties of the Rental Housing Tribunals. It also defines the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords in a coherent manner, provides the tools to deal with relationships between landlords and tenants, and provides a standard appeal process if necessary.
What are the Major Changes to the Act?
Lease Agreements in Writing
All lease agreements must now be in writing and the responsibility for this falls onto the landlord. The Act also outlines contents that a lease agreement should contain. Any lease agreement that have been agreed upon verbally will no longer be binding.
Receipts and Proof
While landlords are allowed to request the deposit by a tenant before moving in, they must invest the deposit into an interest-bearing account with a financial institution. The tenant therefore has the right to receive a receipt of all payments made to the landlord as well as the proof of interest earned on the deposit.
Inspection and Maintenance
Before a tenant is set to move into a property, the tenant and landlord must inspect the property for any damages and in turn establish the landlord’s responsibility for fixing the problems. The responsibility to arrange a joint inspection falls on the landlord. A list of the damages must be attached to the lease agreement upon signing.
If a landlord rents out a property that is not deemed “habitable”, he or she could face up to 2 years in jail. A habitable condition is one where the property is safe and suitable for living while having adequate space and protection from the elements and other threats to health. The tenants also have the right basic services like water and electricity.
Tenants are liable to pay rent and any other charges such as water and electricity on the agreed upon date. Tenants are also not allowed to sublet the property without the consent of the landlord, which may not be unreasonably withheld.
It is best to contact a legal professional for guidance in complying with the proposed changes. Once the Act has been implemented, landlords and tenants will have six months to comply with the new legislation.