Tenants – Ensure Your Deposit is Returned

As a tenant, are you concerned your deposit won’t be returned when you vacate your rental property?

The deposit is paid against any damage you may do to the property during the term of your lease – and may also be used to offset any outstanding rental costs and fees that are due.  However, if you adhere to your lease and fulfill your obligations, then there is no reason to be concerned.

Most disputes arise over damage to a property that the landlord or, their rental agent, believes arose during tenants’ lease – while the tenant insists the issue already existed.

The Rental Housing Act assists in eliminating these disputes as a “move-in” rental inspection needs to be carried out by the landlord (or his agent) and the tenant.  Make sure that all defects are noted during this inspection – even the small ones.  Pay special attention to any issues with carpet stains, marks on walls, cracked tiles, the condition of the garden and pool, counter tops, and sanitary-ware – and take photo’s for reference.

Once the report has been completed be sure to sign it off.  This same inspection process is repeated by landlord (or his agent) and the tenant at the end of the lease once the tenant moves out – so any new issues will be identified.

Another area of contention is what the tenant is responsible for when issues arise during the lease.  A rental lease usually holds the tenant liable for all breakages or damage, with the exception only of “fair wear and tear”.  So, if something breaks during a lease the tenant is liable unless it can be proved that the item is experiencing wear due to normal use and there is no negligence or abuse.

It a tenant puts nails or picture hangers on a wall these have to be removed and the wall properly filled and painted to match the other walls.  Often this means repainting the entire room.

Most leases also call for the tenant to have the carpets professionally cleaned at the end of the lease.  Gardens can be a big issue.  A tenant is expected to water and maintain a garden during the lease.  Dead plants and grass need to be replaced at the tenants’ cost if it is evident the garden was not cared for.

Renting a property comes with responsibilities.  As a general rule a tenant would do well to put themselves in the position of their landlord.  Consider what you would expect from your tenant if you owned the property – and then act accordingly.

If damage of any nature arises during a lease – such as storm damage – then report this immediately to the landlord or his agent so that it can be dealt with.  If a tenant fails to report this and further damage occurs, then this could be for the tenants’ account.  Leave the property in the condition you found it and pay your rental on time and your deposit will be refunded.


Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

Email your real estate question to steve.cd@harcourts.co.za.

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