RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF LANDLORDS AND TENANTS
A Landlord/Tenant relationship can be one of trust, cooperation and even a
contribution to the increase of the concerned property’s value or it can be one of sleepless nights, expensive litigation to evict a Tenant and suffering damages to your property.
Must I sign a lease with my Tenant?
A verbal agreement is as binding as a written lease, but if your Tenant insists on having something in writing, you must comply. It is, however, better for both of you to have your agreement in writing to set out the terms and conditions agreed upon. This will go a long way to preventing later disputes, when it is your word against your Tenant.
Should I ask for a deposit?
Yes, it is always a good idea to ask for payment of a deposit in the lease. Remember that the deposit must be placed in an interest-bearing account for the duration of the lease and given back to your tenant, plus interest it has earned, when the Tenant moves out.
If, however, your Tenant still owes you money on moving out, or if the property has been damaged beyond normal wear and tear, you can use the deposit to pay for repairs or to cover the money owed to you.
What maintenance must the Tenant do?
It depends on what your lease says. Usually, a Landlord maintains the outside of the property and the Tenant the inside thereof.
Can I increase the rent in the middle of a lease period?
Not unless your lease agreement specifically says that you are allowed to. If you want, you can add a clause to the initial agreement listing specific reasons that would allow you to increase the rent (for example, if the rates increase).
What can I do if my Tenant has not paid the rent on time?
Technically, your Tenant is in breach of contract. Refer to the breach clause of your contract and act upon it.
If you don’t have a cancellation clause in your agreement, it is good practice to write a letter giving your tenant seven days to rectify the breach, failing which you will have the right to cancel the lease.
How do I evict my Tenant if needs be?
You can never evict a Tenant yourself. You can only seek a court order to evict your Tenant if your Tenant is in breach of contract. To find out if your Tenant is in breach on contract, check your agreement. There should be a clause saying what constitutes a breach of contract (for example, not paying the rent on time) and what your rights would be in such a case (in other words, cancel the lease without further notice).
If your Tenant is indeed in breach of contract, take steps to strongly urge your Tenant to rectify the breach. If this does not work, seek the help of a competent Attorney.
What can I do if the Tenant has damaged the property?
If you asked for a deposit, you can use the money to repair damages attributed to the Tenant beyond normal wear and tear when the Tenant moves out. Be sure to follow these following steps:
- When your Tenant moves in, inspect the property together and list, in writing, any existing defects – both should sign this and it must be attached to the lease agreement;
- When your Tenant moves out, inspect the property together again, ideally no earlier that three days before the Tenant moves out. Compare the new list of defects with the list you made earlier;
- You may give the Tenant an opportunity to do the repairs personally, or you can agree that you will do it. Hold on to receipts for repairs paid for out of the deposit. Your former Tenant has a right to see them;
- If the repairs cost less that the deposit plus the interest accrued, you will have to reimburse your former Tenant with the difference.
Must I sign a lease with my Landlord?
If you have rented a property on a verbal basis for some time and your Landlord then asks you to sign a lease, you do not have to sign a lease with terms that are different to your verbal agreement. Rather, the Landlord will have to negotiate new terms with you and secure your agreement first. It is, however, not advisable to have a verbal agreement and as such we strongly recommend that your lease agreement be put into
What information must be on a written lease?
1. Your name as well as your Landlord’s;
2. Your Postal address as well as your Landlord’s;
3. The address of the property being leased;
4. The amount for which you will rent it;
5. The amount by which the rent will increase (for example, by 10% when
renewing the lease);
6. When the rent will increase (for example, if there is a rates increase);
7. How often the rent is payable (for example, monthly);
8. The amount of the deposit, if any;
9. You and your Landlords obligations;
10. The conditions under which either you or your Landlord can give notice to cancel the contract (for example, if specific maintenance is not done, or if the Tenant is in arrears with the rent)
Must I pay a deposit?
Yes, if the Landlord asks for one and it is stipulated in the lease. If the terms of your original agreement, whether oral or written, did not include a deposit, you need not pay one if the Landlord asks you to do so later. Changes to an agreement are only valid if both you and your Landlord agree to it.
Can my Landlord enter the property without my permission?
Your Landlord has a right to enter the property to perform routine inspections, but only after arranging a specific time. You do not have the right to deny him reasonable access.
Can my Landlord increase my rent when he wants to?
No. The lease or verbal agreement determines when, and by how much, your rent can be increased. It the agreement does not specify an amount or date for an increase, the Landlord has to negotiate the increase with you. Neither you nor your Landlord