When you rent property in South Africa, you’ll generally be expected to pay a security deposit. Commonly, the value of the deposit is equivalent to two month’s rent.
Here we cover some guidelines for helping ensure that at the end of a lease period, you get the full deposit amount returned to you.
What to do before you move in
Before you sign the dotted line, read the terms and conditions of a lease carefully. The lease is a legally binding document, and will outline your obligations as a tenant.
You’ll usually be obliged to take care of the leased property, and to restore it to the same condition you found it in at the end of the lease period. Fail to do so, and the landlord is entitled to use part or all of the deposit to cover the costs of any repairs or necessary cleaning.
The lease will also define any penalties to be imposed if you terminate the agreement before the due date. In some cases, you’ll find the landlord is legally permitted to keep all or part of the two-month deposit in lieu of rent.
Before moving in, also make sure you inspect the property. Compile a record of any faults or damage in writing, and back it up with photographs.
Send the report to the rental agency or landlord, and keep a hard copy for your records.
During the lease period
Always report any problems – such as blocked drains, rising damp or swollen doors and windows – to the landlord or rental agency immediately. Even if an issue arises that you don’t want repaired, report it and keep a copy of the letter or email you’ve sent.
Of course, it’s also important to maintain the property, keeping it in good repair.
If your kids make a hole in the carpet or your cat leaves deep gouges in a door, for example, get the damage fixed as soon as possible. Avoid putting nails in the walls or screws behind the doors – or if you do, be prepared to remove them and re-paint at the end of your stay.
It’s important to note that as a tenant, you’re not liable for general wear and tear. But if you burn the carpet or break a lock or security gate, you’ll have to get the damages repaired at your own cost, or be content to lose your deposit.
Be sure to get the landlord’s permission first if you want to do any decorating or make any changes to the property at your own cost.
Also communicate and document any improvements. If there’s a dispute about repayment of the deposit at the end of the lease, you can always use the improvements as leverage.
What to do when you vacate
Before you vacate a property you’ve rented, fix any damage and clean the entire place from top to bottom. Also make sure you’ve paid all the outstanding utility bills, and keep records of these payments.
Then ask the landlord to inspect the premises in person, and hand over the keys. If the landlord isn’t available to do a walk-through inspection, take photographs of the premises and forward them to the landlord.
If the landlord is satisfied with the condition of the property, your deposit should be returned to you in full within 14 days.
A final point. The landlord has to keep your deposit in an interest-bearing account. If you meet all your obligations, you’ll get the deposit back plus interest.
To help with the cleaning process
Moving is always stressful. As well as packing and relocating all your belongings, it’s likely you’ll need to spring clean two homes – the one you’re leaving (an important step for making sure you get your rental deposit back), as well as the new home you’ll be moving into.