Mystery of the missing deposit

Private Property South Africa
The Roosting Venus

All good things come to an end. So fortunately do all bad things. And we were rather excited that galpal’s relationship with Lord Awful, her misogynist landlord, was in its twilight days.

Not a moment too soon. When one starts wondering how to dispose of a body, one knows it’s time to move on.

Of course there was the issue of the deposit, which we knew without comparing notes, would not be honestly returned. As Lord Awful didn’t belong to the Estate Agency Affairs Board – required by law in South Africa – we had no immediate recourse, but there was the comfort of their whistle blower hotline which takes confidential reports of any fraud and acts on them.

As Lord Awful hadn’t yet had to return the deposit it was too soon to blow the whistle, but we whistled under our breath as we made a check list of the loopholes in his deposit-related admin.

We hadn’t known that on receiving a deposit from a tenant a landlord is required to provide the tenant with a dated receipt (this applies to all subsequent payments too) and invest that deposit in an interest-bearing account. The landlord also needs to divulge to the tenant the rate of interest on this account – and the tenant has the right to negotiate this rate of interest. As well as this, at any time during the period of lease the tenant may request that the landlord provide written proof of the interest accrued on the deposit and the landlord is obliged to do this.

Although Lord Awful had done none of this, in fact he couldn’t even account for the date of deposit, and while we were certain that he wouldn’t be putting his hands into his pocket to return the deposit, we still decided it was better to give him no points to argue when galpal did move out. And hence our cleaning.

Once all the furniture was gone, we spent a day with our cleaning team, making sure the property was pristine from top to toe. While deep cleaning the carpets, making sure drains were unblocked, polishing taps and wiping down cupboards left the property far cleaner than when galpal had moved in she was a lady with high standards and wouldn't have it any other way. What was more, she very wisely pointed out, she’d rather spend a few hundred rand on leaving a sparkling property than lose a few thousand by not getting her deposit back. Good advice for tenants dealing with decent landlords.

For us it was almost guaranteed that Lord Awful wouldn’t be giving galpal her deposit back. And once she vacated the property, we watched with interest. By law, Lord Awful had had three days prior to galpal leaving to inspect the property in her company. This he didn’t do, but as the law still provided for him to inspect the property alone within 7 days of galpal leaving we presumed he may opt for this. His failure to do that (which we put down to his habitual laziness) meant that legally the dwelling was taken to be in a good and proper state of repair. He then had at the outside 21 days from the date of the expiration of the lease to return her deposit. Predictably the deposit remained awol.

Should we whistle – 0800 223 225? Or call the Rental Housing Tribunal – 011 355 4000? These were possibilities galpal had known nothing about, and they were tempting.

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