Although there is as yet no finality on when it will be enacted, the Rental Housing Amendment Bill will almost certainly at some stage in the not-too-distant future be on the statute books. And, says Shaun Groves, National Manager of the Rawson Property Group’s Rental Franchise division, every landlord should be aware of the changes that the new Act will bring about.
“One of the main successes,” said Shaun, “is that where it was previously stipulated (in terms of the Rental Housing Act of 1999) that a rental agreement had to be in writing only if the tenant asked for this – with the result that many agreements were only verbal – the new Act insists that a lease has to be written and that certain specific clauses have to be contained within it.”
Standard leases in all 11 languages
Although they have not yet been issued, provision has been made to make standard leases available in all 11 official languages. However, said Shaun, he would go along with such legal firms as Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes, which has recommended that these should be checked by an attorney who operates in the landlord’s area and is familiar with the special provisions that frequently apply to certain rented properties.
Among the other conditions that now become mandatory in terms of the new Act, said Shaun, is that it lays down that the tenant is entitled to receive written receipts for all the payments and that these have to include details of the address of the rented premises and whether the payment was for arrears, the deposit or standard rent (this condition was in fact implied in the existing Act but often not acted on).
The new Act, said Shaun, tightened up the wording with regards to the landlord’s duties to maintain the premises at all times – and on time – without undue delays. However, the wording here “to ensure that a building is fit or suitable to live in” could, says Groves, be open to a wide variety of interpretations.
Every province to have a Rental Housing Tribunal
The new ruling would ensure that all local authorities will have to establish a rental housing information office and every province will now have to have a Rental Housing Tribunal.
“As rental agreements have been abused both by landlords and by tenants, there is a serious need for advisory and decision making facilities of the kind now proposed”, said Shaun.
The ruling with regards the final inspection to be done by the landlord and the tenant when a lease expires has also been slightly altered: it is now the landlord’s duty to arrange this joint inspection with the tenant. It is difficult to see how this is an improvement on the previous arrangement, which places the responsibility on the landlord and tenant jointly. However, the tenant, anxious to complete this process and get his deposit back as quickly as possible, will presumably still have the right to ask for such an inspection at the earliest possible date.
The final clause in the new Act, which states that the landlord must provide the necessary “facilities”, is open to a wide range of interpretations, and could lead to disputes.