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Wednesday Jan 23, 2013

Demand a receipt for your property rental

When the tenant makes a payment, the landlord must issue a receipt for the sum received. Even if the tenant pays into the landlord or his agent's bank account, a receipt must be given to the tenant.

While the tenant's bank deposit slip or copy of electronic payment is proof of payment, it is not a receipt.

What is the reason for issuing a receipt?

The following statements in the judgment of Michel v Rex 1944 OPD 227 show the importance of a receipt:

"The primary function of a receipt is to prove payment of a pre-existing debt or the delivery of property.

"(T)here is an obligation on a creditor to give a receipt when the debtor tenders payment."

In Van Noorden v De Jongh and Hofmeyer (1891-1892) 9 SC 296 at 298, Chief Justice De Villiers, said: "I take the rule of our law to be that a debtor is not bound to pay his debt unless the creditor is ready and willing to give a receipt for the amount."

The receipt is therefore proof of payment ( Coch v Lichtenstein NO 1910 AD 178), like a cash sales slip that is proof of purchase.

A receipt is an important document and has legal significance, especially when there is a disagreement.

It is proof of payment for the purchase of an item or services rendered or payment for usage of a thing.

Take the case where you had to return an item to a store for an exchange or a refund.

A cash sale slip or receipt is proof of purchase. Similarly, a rental receipt is proof of rental paid and the date on which it was tendered.

Can a tenant refuse to pay in the absence of a receipt?

Under common law, the tenant can demand receipt when making payment (Pillay v Krishna 1946 AD 946 at 955) and should the landlord refuse or fail to issue a receipt, the tenant can refuse to make payment.

Judge Maritz (in Liebenberg v Loubser 1938 TPD 414 at 415) held that a debtor tendering payment is entitled to a receipt, and if this is refused him, he is justified in declining to make payment.

The Rental Housing Act, No 50 of 1999, requires a landlord to provide receipts for all payments received in respect of the tenancy.


Receipts include security deposit or repairs to damage to the dwelling caused by the tenant. Section 5(3)(a)(b) states a lease will be deemed to include terms, enforceable in a competent court, to the effect that:

The landlord must furnish the tenant with a written receipt for all payments received by the landlord from the tenant.

Such receipt must be dated and clearly indicate the address, including the street number and further description, if necessary, of a dwelling in respect of which payment is made, and whether payment has been made for rental, arrears, deposit or otherwise, and specify the period for which payment is made.

A receipt must therefore reflect the following information:

  • The tenant's name.

  • The date money is received.

  • The address of the dwelling.

  • The type of dwelling (eg, flat, room, shack, garage).

  • What the payment is for (e.g. rental, arrears, deposit, repairs, service charges like water, electricity).

  • The period for which payment is made.

  • The correct amount.

    Can the receipt be in electronic form?

    Uniform Rules of Court were changed to allow for substituted service of court notices once permission is obtained from the court.

    Notices can be served electronically, including through email and, in a recent judgment, Judge Esther Steyn (in CMC Woodworking Machinery (Pty) Ltd v Pieter Odendaal Kitchens [2012 (5) SA 604 (KZD)]) allowed the use of Facebook to serve a notice.

    There are circumstances for using the electronic service, but the court's permission is required.

    As for receipts, where parties have access to say an e-mail or a facsimile, there ought to be no legal restraint for the landlord and tenant to use modern technology.

    What can the tenant do if a receipt is not issued?

  • Lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal regarding an unfair practice.

  • Inform the landlord in writing that no further payments will be made unless receipts are issued.

    Dr Sayed Iqbal Mohamed
    Chairman of the Organisation of Civic Rights.
    Tenant Issues
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