How to deal with bad landlords

Private Property South Africa
Carmel Woodman

Is your landlord taking advantage of you? Follow these tips to make sure you’re protected from a current or future bad landlord.

Landlords are very careful to make sure that they are protected from potential bad tenants. Tenants should be equally as diligent about protecting themselves against landlords who could take advantage of them, or not hold up their end of the lease agreement.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself, as a tenant:

  • Landlords will screen tenants by checking their references, credit record and verifying their income. Tenants should do the same by checking any property records that are available online, to make sure that the landlords are in fact the owners of the property. This can be done through the Deeds Office for a nominal fee. Find out if the landlord owns other properties and take a look, to see whether those properties are in good condition.

    • If the landlord has other tenants, ask the landlord if you can get in touch with them. It’s a good idea to chat to them about whether they are happy with the landlord or not. Getting another tenant’s opinion is a great indication as to whether a landlord would be a good fit with you or not, as well as whether a landlord could potentially not perform their responsibilities.

    Upon viewing the flat, ask the landlord the following questions to ascertain more information:

    1. How long have you owned the property, and is it run by property managers or yourself?
    2. How long did the previous tenants stay?
    3. Why did the previous tenants leave?
  • If your landlord is ignoring necessary repairs to the property, or withholding your security deposit for illegal reasons, make sure to contact the Rental Housing Tribunal. A landlord needs to provide habitable living conditions for a tenant and if this is not being done, a tenant has the right to ask the landlord for this to be done, or go to the Rental Housing Tribunal.

  • Make sure that everything is in writing, so that there is written proof if the landlords are not living up to their end of the lease agreement. Such things as the property not being maintained properly, rental disputes and so on, need to be in writing. This is the only way that either party has proof of what has been happening. Making notes and taking photographs of everything is a good way to make sure that you have everything documented, should the issue escalate further.

  • Get to know the rental laws and your tenant rights before you rent a property. It’s a good idea to spend some time researching these and perhaps speak to real estate experts in your area, to get up to speed on your rights. Make sure that you know what to do in the event of a violation of your rights. It’s important to remember that rental agreements do not trump the law of the land, as many landlords tend to think.

  • Request any repairs in writing, this serves as documentation for your own records, in case the request is not dealt with. You will then have proof to take to the Rental Housing Tribunal, which will have more weight than your word against your landlord’s word.

  • When putting together your snag list, make sure to take note of everything wrong with the property in the form of a signed document and photographs. This will ensure that you can avoid having your rental deposit withheld in the event that your landlord tries to pass any of these items off as being your fault.

The moral of the story is, even if a landlord seems great in the initial meetings, it will serve you well to have done what is necessary to protect yourself. Particularly if your landlord ends up attempting to take advantage of you.

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