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Monday Aug 18, 2014

New property rental law to come into force

Some amendments to the Rental Housing Act will mean every property lease has to be in writing and correctly drafted says Andrew Schaefer of property management company Trafalgar.

'This alone is a major departure from the current act, which states that a lease only needs to be in writing if the tenant requires it. This has led to many thousands of tenants and landlords, especially in informal housing settlements, living without any sort of legal document stipulating what their respective rights and responsibilities may be.

'However, most landlords don't have the know-how to draft a compliant lease, nor the time to handle the many other administrative tasks imposed by the Rental Housing Act. These include issuing detailed receipts for every payment made by the tenant, the management of tenants' deposits and provision of proof of the interest earned on these deposits as well as receipts for damages repaired, and the organisation and documentation of inspections every time a tenant moves in or out.'

The Rental Housing Amendment Bill, to be enacted later this year, will make it mandatory for landlords to provide tenants and their households with safe, weatherproof accommodation of adequate size; to keep the property in a state of good repair and, where possible 'to facilitate the provision of utilities to the property'.

Schaefer says this clause is intended to prevent people letting backyard structures that violate regulations, but it also applies to landlords in the formal sector and holds the potential for serious disputes if their tenants and properties are not regularly monitored.

He says the new law will make it mandatory for local authorities to establish a rental housing information office, and for every province to establish a rental housing tribunal, as opposed to the current arrangement where this function is left to the provinces to decide.

'This will give many more landlords and tenants access to impartial advice and assistance when it comes to resolving disputes. This is in line with the Department of Human Settlements' stated objectives in introducing the new legislation, which is to create a 'fair and equitable' rental housing landscape for an estimated 2.5 million to three million households that rent their primary accommodation, and their landlords.

'But much as we applaud this objective, increased regulation of the rental property market will result in an increased administrative and managerial burden that will largely fall on landlords, and many more are likely to fall foul of the law as a result unless they engage professional assistance.'

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

    
 

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