Tenants Have Rights Too!

Tenants Have Rights Too!

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Despite all the hype regarding the number of tenants who abuse the rights of landlords, one thing has become clear: some landlords have been abusing those who lease property from them for years.

One has to wonder what was behind Governments decision to change the law, making it far harder for landlords to call all the shots. Although many will maintain that the pendulum has swung well and truly to the other side, removing virtually all the rights from the hard-done-by landlords, tenants themselves may have a different opinion. It appears that some landlords either didn’t understand tenant’s rights, or adopted an “it’s my property and I can do what I like,” mind-set, often to the detriment of the person leasing the premises.

People lease property for different reasons. Unfortunately, there are those out there who assume that anyone who rents property is of a certain calibre and only worthy of contempt. This often leads to a lack of respect from landlords, who feel that they are free to view the property without prior notice and place unrealistic restrictions on the person renting the property.

Some landlords simply take the leasing story that extra mile. Telling your tenant that they cannot entertain visitors or hang washing outside are just two common examples of where landlords push the boundaries that little bit too far. Handing out the keys to contractors without letting the tenant know is also a huge no-no, but appears to happen on a fairly regular basis.

Respect is a two way street and landlords and tenants who maintain a good relationship by honouring each other’s rights make life far easier for one another. Lack of communication seems to be a common problem on both sides and while misunderstandings can happen, setting the record straight as quickly as possible seems to be the key to solving a number of issues.

Maintaining the property is a particular contentious issue, with landlords often laying the blame for deterioration firmly at the feet of tenants. Simply put, landlords have to maintain a property and have to understand the difference between malicious damage to property and fair wear and tear. Although the duty to maintain the property falls in part with the tenant, the occupant cannot and should not be held liable for the deterioration of a property that has not been maintained to the required standards. Fair wear and tear does come into it and attempting to get your tenant to pay to have the house painted after he has lived there for five years is pushing it. Any property needs to be maintained and landlords who believe that renting out the property absolves them from this are going to be disappointed.

Similarly everyone has the right to privacy and landlords who refuse to recognise this basic right are going to end up having a bad relationship with their tenants. Landlords by law have to advise tenants when they will be “popping in” because even if the intention is not to spy on the person leasing the property, this is exactly what the tenant perceives.

It is perhaps easy to forget that there are a large number of landlords who are extremely happy with their tenants. Yes there are bad apples out there that should be avoided at all costs, but generally speaking, the majority are going to pay their rent on time, keep the property fairly well maintained and forge if not the happiest of relationships then at least one that it convenient to both parties enabling everyone to live happily ever after.


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