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Rental deposit

Landlords likely to have stricter credit and rental checks after Covid-19 financial impact

By | COVID 19, Lease Agreement, Rental deposit
Rental market likely to see stricter credit checks

Landlords are advised to use their judgement and approach each situation on a case-by-case basis. (iStock)

Reprinted from Fin24, by Carin Smith – 2021-01-11

  • Most South Africans rent the property where they stay
  • Many are now also without jobs or have experienced a drastic reduction in income due to the pandemic
  • Landlords are likely to apply increasingly strict credit and rental record checks

South Africa’s rental market is likely to show only very minimal growth – if any – due to the current combination of high vacancy rates and economic pressures on tenants, according to Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

In his view, most landlords and rental agents are likely to apply increasingly strict credit and rental record checks. Deposit requirements are also likely to rise.

“A very large number of quality tenants have become home buyers in 2020 due to the lower interest rates, and on top of that landlords have had to contend with extensive non-payment issues due to the economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, so they are already very cautious when it come to new tenants,” says Kotzé.

“And unfortunately, a large number of those who are likely to be looking for rental properties now are people who already have some financial problems. So, there will be a need to be even more careful.”

Alternatively, says Kotzé, many rental property owners will probably just decide to sell off their portfolios now, so astute investors who have the means to buy quickly should look out for the “bargain” flats and townhouses that will come on to their local markets as a result.

Grant Smee of Only Realty says even in the best circumstances, securing reliable tenants is tricky, but the pandemic has added an extra layer of complexity into the mix.

He says data shows most South Africans rent rather than own the property where they stay. Many are now without jobs or have experienced a drastic reduction in income, leaving them suddenly unable to afford rent.

“This shift gives rise to a situation in which tenants hold more power than before and has led to an increase in short-term rental agreements being signed. In addition, tenants are calling the shots in terms of deposit amounts and various other conditions which leave landlords feeling vulnerable,” says Smee.

Recent statistics from the Tenant Profile Network (TPN) indicate that 60.74% of tenants paid their rent on time during the last quarter of 2020, while 9% of all tenants are not paying rent at all. “Long-term rentals provide financial security for landlords, and in the past agreements were generally set up to protect the interests of both parties equally.

However, today, tenants may have more say in compromises when it comes to issues such as deposit payments too.

“In a market with excess rental stock, landlords may be more amenable to reduced deposits and short-term rentals in order to stand out from the crowd,” says Smee.

“Landlords looking to take advantage of the demand for the short-term letting market, need to ensure their property provides excellent value and a unique offering. Here factors such as location, price, quality and overall experience can ensure that they stand out from other competing units.”

Challenges for Landlords

Smee says landlords were largely unprepared for tenants being unable to pay during lockdown, leaving many of them without access to an open line of credit. Very few landlords have rent default insurance and payment holidays are now up.

“While tenants are certainly more able to demand compromise, and landlords are beholden to new pressures such as short-term rental agreements, it’s unlikely that tenants will be able to ‘strongarm’ landlords into drastically one-sided agreements,” says Smee.

Landlords are still considered to hold most of the negotiating power and retain the ability to write terms and conditions into leases which are favourable to them. On the other hand, landlords feeling the pressure to retain good tenants or adjust to the difficult current market may see fit to compromise and offer lower deposits and short-term rental agreements to remain competitive.”

Smee suggests that the current situation in the rental market requires agreeing on a middle ground, where both parties consider the other’s circumstances. This could include tenants paying an available rent, and landlords being more flexible by offering short-term rentals, deposit utilisation or rental deferment.  Landlords are advised to use their judgement and approach each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Links added by SD Law

Do you have questions about your lease agreement or rental deposit?

Whether you are tenant or landlord, if you have questions or concerns about your existing lease agreement or security deposit, contact Cape Town law firm SD Law for a confidential discussion. We will explain your rights and responsibilities to ensure a worry-free tenancy. Contact Simon now on 086 099 5146 or email him on info@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

What’s covered by the rental deposit

By | Lease Agreement, Rent, Rental deposit, Rental Housing Act

This article, from the Personal Finance section of Independent Online, is a clear and helpful explanation of the purpose of the rental security deposit.

rental deposit
File Image: IOL

Reprinted from iol.co.za – 2020-10-06

Following a period of lockdown restrictions that put severe pressure on the income levels of many households, some landlords have had to go through the costly process of applying for a court order to evict defaulting tenants. Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive officer of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, explains that the rental deposit exists largely to protect the landlord against defaulting tenants and the lengthy, expensive process that is involved to evict them.

According to Goslett, tenants are protected by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, No. 19 of 1998, also known as the PIE Act. If the correct procedures are followed, it can take at least eight to 10 weeks for an eviction order to be granted during which time the landlord is out of pocket. “Besides the fact that the landlord is not getting a rental income from the defaulting tenant during that period, they will also have to pay legal costs. An unopposed eviction could cost between R12 000 and R20 000 in legal costs plus disbursements, while the cost of an opposed matter will be substantially more. Section 5 of the Rental Housing Act, No. 50 of 1999 states that a landlord is legally entitled to request a deposit from their tenants. This deposit can be used to help cover these legal costs,” he explains.

With this in mind, most landlords request a deposit from their tenants before they move into the property. The amount that the tenant will be required to pay as a deposit is stipulated in the lease agreement. Conventionally, the rental deposit amount is equal to anywhere from one to even three months’ rent.

“When a tenant pays the deposit, the landlord is required by the Rental Housing Act to place the money in an interest-bearing account, held with a financial institution. The tenant is within their rights to request a statement of the interest earned on the money at any time during their tenancy. Even though the deposit is paid to the landlord, it remains the tenant’s money. The landlord is merely holding the money as a security measure, should the tenant default or breach the rental agreement. If the tenancy runs its normal course, the deposit along with all interest earned on the money must be paid over to the tenant at the end of the lease agreement period,” says Goslett.

However, he warns that the landlord is entitled to deduct from the rental deposit any expenses incurred repairing any damage to the property which occurred during the tenancy. “The remainder of the money must then be refunded to the tenant no later than 14 days after the restoration of the property as dictated by the Act. If repairs are done, the tenant can request to see all repair receipts to confirm that the money was spent to repair the damage they did to the property. The landlord cannot use the deposit for general maintenance or upkeep of the property. If there is no damage to the property, the full deposit and interest must be paid to the tenant within seven days of the lease’s expiration date,” he explains.

Should any disputes arise between the landlord and the tenant regarding the rental deposit, Goslett recommends they can turn to the province’s Rental Housing Tribunal. “The tribunal assists to mediate and resolve disputes between the parties. Before entering into a rental agreement, both the tenant and the landlord should familiarise themselves with their legal rights regarding the tenancy and the rental deposit. Knowledge of the relevant procedures can help prevent unpleasant and costly disputes down the line,” he said.

Links added by SD Law.

Do you have questions about your lease agreement or rental deposit?

Whether you are tenant or landlord, if you have questions or concerns about your existing lease agreement or security deposit, contact Eviction Lawyers for a confidential discussion. We will explain your rights and responsibilities to ensure a worry-free tenancy. Contact Cape Town lawyer Simon Dippenaar now on 086 099 5146 or email him on info@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading: