Get your lease right

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should have a written lease, and make sure it contains certain essential clauses.

That’s the advice of RentalsDotCom, the rental property management division of Harcourts Africa, which says that although a verbal lease is legal, it is preferable to have a written agreement to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes in future.

CEO Martin Schultheiss also says both landlord and tenants should check to see that the lease contains certain clauses. These include:

  • A clause clearly identifying and describing the property that is being let, and stating how many people may live there;
  • A clause formally identifying the landlord and the tenant;
  • A clause stating the period of the lease and if and when it can be renewed;
  • A clause stating the amount of rent payable and how and when it should be paid, for example into a certain bank account on the first of every month;
  • A clause detailing any other charges payable, such as municipal charges for water and electricity consumption, or perhaps a percentage of the levy if it is a sectional title property;
  • A clause outlining the responsibilities of the landlord, such as maintaining the property and making sure that any essential repairs are made quickly;
  • A clause outlining the responsibilities of the tenant, such as doing no damage to the property and using it only for its proper purpose – for example, not running a business from a residential property;
  • A clause or two stating what the process and consequences will be if either party breaches the agreement, for example what will happen if the tenant does not pay what due is on time, or what the tenant can do if the landlord lets the property go to rack and ruin.

“And probably most importantly,” says Schultheiss, “since this issue causes more disputes between tenants and landlords than any other, there must be a clause stating what deposit is payable by the tenant, where it will be kept and in what circumstances it will be or won’t be paid back.”

He also cautions that no-one should ever sign a lease unless they are sure that they fully understand the contents, and should seek expert advice if there’s any aspect that’s unclear.

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