July 03, 2006
Rent: Can landlord and tenant freely agree rents in South Africa?
Rents can be freely negotiated in South Africa.However, the tenant can file a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal if the landlord is charging too much rent for poor-quality accommodation. The tribunal can order the landlord to reduce the rent if the building is not well maintained.
There is no restriction on the size of deposit, but it must be stated in the contract.
The landlord must invest the money in an interest-bearing account, and the interest rate must not be lower than the rate applicable to a savings account. Within 14 to 21 days of the end of the lease, the landlord must return the security deposit, with interest.
What rights do landlords and tenants have in South Africa, especially as to duration of contract, and eviction?
The landlord cannot prematurely end a fixed-term lease.
If the tenant remains in the unit after the end of the fixed term with the express or tacit consent of the landlord, the lease is deemed to be a periodic lease. Periodic leases can be terminated by giving a month’s written notice.
If the tenant refuses to vacate the property after the expiration of the lease, the landlord must obtain a summons from the court. If the tenant decides to respond to a summons, he or his lawyer must file within three days the “Notice of intention to defend” printed at the back of the summons. A hearing will take place. The court may then issue an eviction order. The landlord must supplement this with a warrant of eviction, stamped by the court. Under the law, notice must be given two weeks in advance before the tenant is evicted.
If the tenant poses an immediate threat to the landlord, then the landlord can file for a “summary judgment.” A summary judgment allows the sheriff to evict the tenant even if the case is still being heard in the court.
To fight off an eviction, the tenant can claim a right of retention, a right to stay in the house until the landlord compensates the tenant for any improvements made on the house.
The Sheriff with the help of the police carries out the eviction. If the tenant owes rent, the court can order the sheriff to attach the tenant’s properties to the house. It means the sheriff can take the tenant’s properties and sell them to compensate the landlord. A landlord can also file for an “interdict,” preventing the tenant from taking his things as long as the arrears are not paid.
EVICTION FOR NON-PAYMENT OF RENT
|Duration until completion of service of process||10|
|Duration of trial||189|
|Duration of enforcement||10|
|Total Days to Evict Tenant||209|
|Courts: The Lex Mundi Project|
How effective is the South African legal system?
The Rental Housing Act [No.50 of 1999] provides for the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals in all provinces of South Africa and grants them the authority to settle disputes between tenants and landlords. So far only three of the nine provinces have created housing tribunals, Gauteng, Western Cape, and North West.
Rental Housing Tribunals use the same procedures as a Labor Court and give rulings with the same power as those of a magistrate’s court. The tribunal has 30 days to help the parties reach a solution. If any party is not satisfied with the proceedings of the tribunal, he may take the case to the High Court.
Recent changes in African landlord and tenant law
Rental Housing Act [No.50 of 1999] repealed rent control which had been in place since 1976. It governs the relationship between the landlord and the tenant and applies to all written and verbal agreements made, effective August 1, 2000.