The Rental Housing Act & your rights as property owner​

The most important laws governing the relationship between landlords and tenants are:

  • The Rental Housing Act (RHA)
  • The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) and
  • The Consumer Protection Act (CPA)

These three laws attempt to balance the often-conflicting interests of the property owner and the tenant and establish a legal framework for the resolution of disputes that arise during the tenant’s occupation of a property.

In this article we will focus on the RHA and how it affects you as a property owner. Please note that this information is not intended to be legal advice and you should at all times consult a qualified attorney to properly discover your rights and recourse.

Currently the RHA of 1999 is still in play although the 2014 amendments have been accepted and are awaiting promulgation by the president.

What will change?

Going forward, landlords will be obliged to reduce agreements to writing, which in the past was only necessary if the tenant requested it. Even though the 2014 amendments are not yet in force, we strongly encourage landlords to have a written and signed lease agreement that also includes all subsequent agreements. In our experience written agreements are always better than verbal ones, especially if it needs to be tested in court. Verbal agreements are open to interpretation and when disputed by the other party, the court may be required to hear oral evidence. This can lead to unnecessary delays as well as escalating legal fees. (For more information about how to draw up a good lease agreement, read our  Nuts & Bolts article on this topic.)

Chapter 3 of the RHA is the pertinent section and outlines the duties and rights of the owner and  tenant. It is worth reading these pages as this is the area where most disputes arise. In summary:

The owner:

  1. May not discriminate against applying tenants on the basis of amongst others (but not limited to) race, gender, disability, religion, age, disability, language, birth, gender;
  2. Must respect the tenant’s privacy and make proper arrangements should access to the premises be required;
  3. May terminate the lease due to material breaches of the agreement as long as this does not constitute an unfair practice (here we look to the CPA for procedural guidance and if the tenant is deemed an “unlawful occupier”, PIE action may be instituted.);
  4. Must receive the property back in the same condition at the termination of the lease, save for fair wear and tear, and recover costs associated with repairs to damage caused by the tenant (as recorded in the entry and exit inspections) from the security deposit held for this purpose.
  5. Perform structural maintenance on the property when notified of such damage by the tenant (again there are some grey areas here, specifically if the structural maintenance required resulted from damage caused by the tenant or as a result of the tenant’s failure to perform fair maintenance).

The tenant:

  1. Must make prompt and regular payment of the rent as agreed in the lease, and is entitled to receive written receipts for all payments made;
  2. May not unreasonably deny the owner his right to access the property if proper notice has been given;
  3. Adhere to the House Rules (if applicable) as attached to the lease agreement;
  4. Perform fair maintenance of the property and garden, typically explicitly specified in the agreement.

Disputes most often arise in the following broad areas:

  1. The tenant does not pay the rent in full or on time;
  2. The tenant does not adhere to house rules or specific requirements recorded in the lease agreement;
  3. The tenant does not perform regular maintenance/repairs and upkeep to the property;
  4. The owner does not perform structural repairs when requested by the tenant;
  5. The owner makes deductions from the security deposit at the end of the lease that are contested by the tenant.

While each of these actions is a direct contravention the Rental Housing Act, the CPA and PIE also come into play in terms of the procedures followed by the parties in their attempts to rectify the issue.

For more information about how RentMaster can help you manage your rental property, call us on 0861 250 250 or email us on info@rentmaster.co.za