Landlords demand higher deposits

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

A few years ago if a landlord had demanded a double deposit plus a full month’s rent before a tenant moved in, he would probably have been laughed at and would have found it all but impossible to find a suitable tenant.

The idea of forking out a vast sum just for the privilege of living in something that someone else owned would have seemed ludicrous and yet many landlords are now demanding this additional security before letting a property. And it doesn’t necessarily stop there. Many landlords are insisting that tenants also pay additional deposits on water and electricity accounts.

Depending on which side of the fence you are on, these charges could be deemed unreasonable. After all, according to tenants, landlords have it easy. Renting out property is basically money for jam and all they have to do is sit back and watch the money roll in month after month. They increase the rent, even though the interest rate has dropped and go as far as to force the tenant to pay the rental agent’s commission.

From the landlord’s point of view, retaining a double deposit still doesn’t guarantee that the money held in trust is going to cover the costs of the repairs once the current tenant has vacated the premises. It appears that many landlords are learning from their own and other’s mistakes and are unwilling to take a risk on someone they barely know. Can you really blame them?

Bad tenants have been known to do incredibly bad things to property. Anything seems to go, from braaing in the lounge to transforming the swimming pool into a wildlife pond. The worst of it all is that this type of tenant doesn’t seem to understand that he has to pay for the repairs once he has moved on to a beautiful new home.

In many ways the new laws governing rental property have backfired on tenants. Landlords know that it is not easy to evict a problem tenant and will go to any lengths ensure that their investment is as safe as possible.

Tenants will have to get used to the idea that landlords are going to delve into their pasts to see if there is any blot on their record. Keeping your nose clean by having a good credit record may be critical, but this is only the beginning. The days of a landlord or his agent not conducting thorough background checks are pretty much over. Anyone who wants to safeguard his investment is going to go all out to ensure that the person who leases his property is not only fit and proper, they are also going to have to prove that they have a secure, steady income and an excellent record with previous landlords.

The last point is particularly important as bad tenants generally do not change their behaviour. As such, a person who in the past has shown no respect for other people’s property, has not paid his rent on time or who has missed payments is going to find it far more difficult to rent accommodation.

Technology has changed the way landlords and their agents do business and it has become far easier to carry out background checks. Dedicated organisations keep detailed records on bad tenants and lists of their various infringements. There are very few rental agents out there who would consider renting out a landlord’s home without double checking every detail.

In their opinion too many landlords have been caught on the back foot and you can bet your boots that they don’t want to become another statistic.

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