Struggling to get your deposit from your landlord?

The repayment of deposits by Landlords are a more common issue that one would think. And it is
one of the most pressing issues between tenants and landlords, if not the most pressing issue. The
first step in combatting this issue by a tenant is to ensure that there is a written rental agreement i
place. A written rental agreement albeit it not being a full proof manner to address this issue, it does
offer considerable protection to a tenant in the event of a deposit repayment dispute.


Unlike a sale of land agreement that must be in written format, a rental agreement does not
necessarily have to be in written format. However, it is the best way to ensure that both the tenant
and the Landlord are protected in the event of a dispute, regardless of the nature of the dispute. A
written rental agreement should entail as much as possible information regarding each party’s rights
and obligations concerning the rental property. It is imperative to ensure that the rental agreement
at least contain an accurate description of the rental property, the monthly rental payable and by
which date the monthly rental must be paid, annual escalation if applicable, what is included in the
rental amount, such as water and electricity, the deposit amount payable and when the entry and
exit inspections must happen or should happen, the rental period, and lastly how and when the
agreement can be cancelled and what penalty amount is applicable in the event of early cancellation
of the rental agreement.


As mentioned, the rental agreement should contain what the deposit amount is and when the
deposit amount will be returned to the tenant. The accepted practice is that a deposit must be paid
back to the tenant within a reasonable time after the exit inspection has been conducted and no
damages apart from normal wear and tear is applicable. It needs to be noted that it is within a
landlord’s right to subtract any damages caused by the tenant from the deposit. It is further
important that this must be stipulated in the rental agreement to eliminate any confusion regarding the repayment of the deposit to the tenant. A landlord may also provide the tenant with a choice by
paying for the damages and receiving the full deposit amount.


If the landlord does not want to repay the deposit or fails to adhere to the timelines in the rental
agreement for the repayment of the deposit, the tenant is not left without remedies. If the tenant
experiences this issue, the tenant may approach the rental housing tribunal that has jurisdiction. The
location of the property will determine which rental housing tribunal has jurisdiction. The rental
housing tribunal has jurisdiction to assist with any rental housing issue, if the dispute arose whilst
the tenant leased a residential property from a tenant, even if the rental agreement has expired in
the interim. Each municipality or metropolitan area has its own rental housing tribunal, and its
services are free of charge and can be utilised without the assistance or services of an attorney,
however it is always advisable to get an attorney to assist with the process. Unfortunately, the rental
housing tribunal does not have jurisdiction to attend to commercial property rental disputes.


For any further information regarding residential housing dispute please do not hesitate to contact
Johann Hattingh at Stratlaw (Pty) Ltd. For any further information regarding the rental housing
tribunal please visit the Department of Human Settlements’ website at www.dha.gov.za.

– Johann Hattingh 2022/07/04

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