We outline steps to take as a tenant, to help ensure you get your residential deposit back on time once your lease ends.
Delays in getting your deposit back after a rental lease ends
By law, South African landlords have seven days after a tenant vacates a property to return a rental deposit. This applies unless the tenant is in arrears or has caused damage to the property.
Unfortunately, delays are fairly common. Landlords may argue that they’ve been unable to arrange times to inspect properties, or claim that properties were left in need of cleaning or repairs.
Whether or not the claims are valid, a delay can be frustrating. It may also deprive you of funds you need to pay the deposit or rental on your new home. You might even find you need to get a loan to pay your rent, to avoid being stranded between homes.
Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can improve your chances of getting your rental deposit back on time.
1. Always do a walkthrough and create a maintenance report when moving in
The thing most likely to cause delays in refunding your deposit is haggling over any damage or maintenance issues your landlord identifies when you’re moving out.
It’s vital to create a clear record of the state of your rental property when you first move in.
The best way to do this is to do a walkthrough with your landlord when you move in. Carefully inspect each room and take photographs of any maintenance issues you pick up.
Once your lease ends, you’ll have the inspection documents as backup if the landlord claims damages for any issues that were already present when you moved in.
2. Give prompt notice of your intention to move out
The more notice you give, the more time the landlord will have to prepare for the end of your lease and get together the funds to return your deposit.
If your lease is expiring, try to give notice of your intention not to renew your lease at least a month before moving out. Make sure you do this in writing.
If you’re going to break a lease early, ensure you comply with any early termination clauses in your lease. Also aim to give your landlord enough extra time to find a replacement tenant.
3. Return the property in good order
Returning your rental property in the shape you found it is the best way to ensure you get your deposit refunded, promptly and in full.
If you leave a rental property with damage or in a less than clean state, it can lead to:
- a significant delay, while the landlord has issues fixed
- loss of a big chunk of your deposit funds – and you won’t be able to control the costs of the providers used to clean the property and/or repair maintenance issues.
It’s advisable to have your rental property professionally cleaned before you do an exit walkthrough with your landlord.
This will achieve the best results – for example, removing otherwise difficult stains from fitted carpets and curtains. It will also ensure you have a record, proving that you had the premises properly cleaned before vacating.
4. Ensure your accounts are up to date
Don’t expect to get your deposit back quickly if your rental or municipal bills are in arrears.
Ideally, ensure that all your accounts are fully up to date when you give notice to end your rental agreement.
It’s not unusual for tenants to attempt to withhold their final month of rental in order to “force” the landlord to pay this using part of their rental deposit.
This is prohibited by most lease agreements and is a ploy that’s best avoided. It may mean you struggle to get the balance of your deposit back, or even find yourself in civil claims court.
How we can help at Chelsea Cleaning
At Chelsea Cleaning, we offer professional, affordable cleaning of carpets, loose rugs, curtains, upholstery and Roman blinds, in and around Cape Town.
Our experienced teams can clean at your rental premises to help ensure you get your residential deposit back. Alternatively, we can collect loose rugs, curtains, blinds and detachable upholstery and clean them using specialised equipment at our factory.