With high debt-to-disposable income levels and the difficulty of obtaining a home loan still a factor, more and more South Africans are opting to rent property. Although this is good news, landlords lessor/lessee relationships are not without their issues. "Landlords and tenants often find themselves on opposing sides when what should be a straightforward business agreement goes south. One of the biggest problems with rental properties relates to security deposits," says Harry van der Linde , of Leapfrog. "Many tenants rely on their security deposits being returned in full, so they can secure the lease on a new property. When deductions are made from the deposit, issues arise. A security deposit is required to rectify any damage to the property when a tenant's lease ends, but landlords can't use the deposits to make good normal wear and tear on a leased property." By law, a landlord needs to keep the deposit in an interest-bearing account for the duration of the lease or in a trust account in the case of a managing agent. If there are no repairs needed when tenants vacate the property, tenants are entitled to the entire rental deposit plus any accrued interest. Any money required for repairs will be deducted from this amount. "When working with a rental agent, owners and tenants should ascertain that the agent is registered with the EAAB (the Estate Agency Affairs Board), so that they can have recourse to the board in the event of any problems." He says another frequent source of complaint relates to when the deposit amount is repaid. According to the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999, the remainder of the security deposit has to be paid to the tenant "no later than 14 days from restoration of the dwelling" and all relevant receipts are to be made available for the tenant's inspection. If no restoration is required, the full deposit (and any accrued interest) must be paid to the tenant "within seven days of the expiration of the lease". Van der Linde recommends that tenants keep the above in mind as they often rely on getting their deposits back quickly, and in full, to secure their next accommodation. Based on the state of the property, this can take time, placing them under pressure and even leading to them losing out on their next rental. Aggrieved parties can turn to the EAAB or the Rental Housing Tribunal (call 0860 106 166) to resolve any disputes. "Knowledge of procedures can do much to prevent unpleasant and costly disputes later," says Van der Linde . Saturday Star
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