Leases can be adjusted to suit needs

Leases can be adjusted to suit needs

Private Property South Africa
Michael Bauer

Landlords, particularly DIY landlords, tend to use general lease agreements that they have possibly bought from their stationers, but they don’t realise that they can adjust their lease agreements to fit in with their individual needs, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the managing agents IHFM.

Landlords and tenants can also download lease agreement templates from Private Property’s online advice centre.

If, for instance, the unit is an apartment where what the tenant does or has in his apartment not only affects him but those around him, it is not unreasonable to state that no animals are allowed or that smoking inside the unit is not permitted, he said. It is also usually advisable that the lease state how many people are allowed to live in the unit and also their names, and possibly even ID numbers. In some cases, it might even be necessary to state that the unit be used only for what it is intended, i.e. a residential unit and no work from home facilities, if it affects the neighbours adversely (for example, noise problems if a person chooses to repair cars in their own garage for a living).

Leases are, however, two way agreements, admits Bauer, and tenants can, too, request leases be adjusted to suit their needs. It might be that they would like a longer term lease or the increase in rent after a year is not set at a specific rate but at the current inflation rate, and landlords are sometimes open to this if they feel they would rather have a good tenant than insist on a rental increase. They might even agree between the two that the tenant can improve the property if whatever he installs or improves remains the landlord’s property after the tenant moves out, e.g. an alarm system or repainting the interior.

Whichever sections are adjusted, however, need to be read and accepted by both the landlord and the tenant, and fully understood by both parties. The Consumer Protection Act does require that contracts be written in clear language, so that there is no risk of “hiding” unsuitable clauses in legal jargon, said Bauer.

Mainly, the contract should stipulate:

  • The length of the occupation of the unit;

  • The people allowed to occupy the unit and if guests are staying, how long they are permitted to visit;

  • Whether the tenant is allowed to personalise the unit, e.g. paint the walls other colours or hang pictures on the walls;

  • Whether the tenant is permitted to work from home;

  • Repairs to any damage done;

  • Maintenance of the unit; and

  • Safety concerns on the tenant’s part.

The landlord’s property is his investment and he is entitled to do what he needs to in order to look after it, said Bauer. Whether he manages the letting of the property on his own or whether he employs an agent, it is still the lease that forms the base of whether the tenant behaves appropriately and looks after the property through an agreement between the two parties.

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