Renters guide: Signing on the dotted line

Renters guide: Signing on the dotted line

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

There are pros and cons to dealing with either a landlord or with a letting agent. below is a breakdown so that you can decide for yourself. You also need to understand what information needs to be on the lease agreement.


Is it better to rent through a Letting Agent or through an Owner/Private Landlord? There are pros and cons to both, it just depends on what your involvement and expectations are.

Renting from a Landlord

  • Pros:

    • The landlord owns the property you are renting, so they are more likely to keep it in good condition while you are staying there
    • Direct communication – meaning a speedier response and quicker decision making
    • It may work out cheaper as there are no agency fees involved
    • Willingness to negotiate – landlords are more willing to negotiate as the property belongs to them
  • Cons:

    • Limited knowledge of the law – landlords are often unaware of all the laws and regulations that govern a lease
    • Lack of regulation – the terms of your lease agreement remain unregulated by an official body

Renting from a Letting Agency

  • Pros:

    • Wide database of properties – access to current properties on the market
    • Knowledge of the law – helpful when dealing with legal documents and compliance requirements
    • Assistance down the line – support of the agent if something goes wrong
  • Cons:

    • Communication can be delayed as it is going through a third party
    • Letting agents cost extra money


While verbal agreements are legally binding, it’s best to make sure that you get a written lease agreement.

A written lease agreement must contain:

  • The names and addresses of both parties
  • The description of the property
  • The rental amount and reasonable escalation
  • The frequency of rental payments, i.e. monthly
  • The amount of the deposit
  • The lease period
  • The notice period for termination of contract
  • The lessor’s obligations
  • Any other costs payable by the tenant
  • A list of defects and whether both parties agree that the lessor must take responsibility to have them fixed or whether it has just been recorded to make it clear that they existed before commencement of the contract (this is usually a separate document attached and can be called the Snag List)
  • A list of the furniture included, if a furnished property is rented out (this is usually a separate document attached and can be called the Inventory List)
  • The House Rules, if any (this is also usually a separate document attached).

A written lease agreement may NOT contain:

  • A penalty for late payment of rent, other than interest
  • The landlord may stipulate the maximum number of residents allowed on the property, but may not discriminate either by race, gender, marital status, age, disability or religion, whom of the tenant’s visitors are allowed.


An incoming and outgoing inspection of the property should be performed.
Together, tenants and landlords should draw up a list of defects, signed by both parties, which will be included in the lease.

Tenants and landlords must both re-inspect the property before the tenant moves out, using the same list of defects as a point of comparison, according to the Rental Housing Act.

Now that you have your ducks in a row...
and you have signed for your perfect new rental...

The next step in your Renting 101 Guide is "Dealing with the deposit":

  1. Getting your ducks in a row
  2. Signing on the dotted line
  3. How to deal with the deposit
  4. The landlord-tenant relationship
  5. Terminating a lease agreement

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