Tenants, listen up! We have some useful hints for you

by Benice BurgerMarch 16, 2018

No exit inspection, no rental deposit deduction, simple – but the refunding of rental deposits is a massive cause of conflict between tenants and landlords.

Here’s how it is supposed to work: tenants are made to pay a deposit, which is usually a month’s rent before they move in, to cover the landlord should they move out, still owing rent or if there is damage to the property.

The deposit has to be put in an interest-bearing account and then refunded with interest when the tenant moves out. That is if the property is in the same condition as it was when it was let out originally.

The Rental Housing Act is very specific about how that is documented. Essentially, both parties must jointly agree on the state of the unit when the tenant moves in and when they move out.

Before the tenant moves in, both parties should go from room to room noting any defects. When the tenant later moves out, they should both repeat the process. If the tenant hasn’t caused any damage, they both sign their agreement on this and the tenant’s deposit must be refunded to them within seven days.

If a wall needs to be repainted because they knocked nails into it, or they burnt or stained the carpet – something beyond normal wear and tear – those things need to be noted as well, in order for the cost of remedying the problems to be deducted from their deposit.

Here’s something a lot of tenants don’t know. The Act also says that if the landlord fails to inspect a dwelling in the presence of the departing tenant, this is taken as an acknowledgement by the landlord that the dwelling is in a good state and they must then refund the full deposit, plus interest, within a week.

Which brings me to Tammy Coetzee’s experience.

In December 2014, Tammy moved into an apartment in Warner Beach after signing a lease with property agent, Charmaine de Vries of Acutts Highway, and paying a deposit of R4,500. There was no joint in-going inspection with the agent, she says.

“The previous tenants were moving out while I was moving in, so one of the tenants went through the flat with me and not the estate agent. None of the walls were freshly painted before I took occupation,” Coetzee says.

“There were marks and pres-tick on the walls from the previous tenants who put pictures up. Three years later when I moved out I made sure that the flat was clean and I washed the walls as properly as I could, but now they’ve charged me for repainting the entire flat.”

R2,108 was deducted from her deposit before the balance was refunded to her, that was just R550 less than the total cost of renovating the flat, according to an invoice she was given.

Responding, de Vries said Coetzee was only made to pay for the cost of the light bulbs and painting the unit, because the bulbs were missing and the walls were dirty, she said.

As for the exit interview, de Vries said Coetzee had vacated the flat on November 24, approximately a week before the lease ended. “We set aside the last day of each month for exit inspections,” she said.

“The client moved out before the last day of the month, and waived her right to the exit inspection.”

But Coetzee says she moved bit by bit over the course of the last week of November, into her sister’s flat, one floor up in the same block. Coetzee was in the flat on the last day of the month, and at no stage did the agent invite her to attend an exit inspection with her.

I put that to de Vries earlier in the week but got no response, despite following up. So I’m going to have to follow up on this matter.

Coetzee has meanwhile lodged a dispute with the Rental Housing Tribunal in Durban.

I get a steady stream of complaints from tenants who feel that their refunds were unjustifiably withheld in full or in part.

Remember, if the landlord or their agent does not do an exit inspection with you, it can be assumed that the unit was left in a good state, and the deposit must be refunded to you, in full, with interest, within a week. Of course, if you are invited to attend that inspection and choose not to, you will be held responsible for any damages.

To protect yourself though, it’s a very good idea to take your own photos as you go into and vacate a unit, and email both to the agent or landlord on the day you took them.

Do your own patching and painting of walls – entire walls, not just a patch. If you can’t do a decent job yourself, pay a professional, it will probably cost you a lot less than what the landlord or agent will deduct from your deposit for the service.

Source: https://www.ecr.co.za/news/consumerwatch/tenants-listen-we-have-some-useful-hints-you/

About The Author
Benice Burger