Depending on whom you ask, written contracts can be interpreted as favouring one party. In terms of the verbal agreement concluded between Cora and her land lord she is to pay an all-inclusive rental amount of R5 500 per month. This shall include water, electricity and Top T.V.
After a couple of months of haphazardous billing by her landlord and further failures of her landlord to connect the Top T.V aerial, Cora decides to ask one of her friends who is a law student for some guidance herein.
Cora’s friend Mandy advises her that there are new and exciting provisions aimed at protecting her (as well as her Landlord) from situations such as these. The Rental Housing Act was recently amended, which gave guidance to both Landlords and tenants in some important respects.
Cora established that in terms of this Amended Rental Housing Act (more specifically Section 5) the Landlord has a duty to reduce the Lease to a written form. This written lease must contain set minimum requirements which includes, inter alia, information relating to the description of the premises (street address being sufficient) , the basic duties and obligations of both the tenant and the landlord as set out in Section 4A and Section 4B of this Act. Further the amount of the charges / rental due in respect of the premises are to be laid out in sufficient detail so that both parties know what to expect and what is expected. The period and terms of such payment and also list of defects resulting from the ingoing inspection should be included in this agreement.
Other than learning that it is compulsory by law to conduct an ingoing and an outgoing inspection where both parties are present, Cora also ascertained that the Minister of Human Settlements has been tasked with the development a pro-forma lease agreement (in all 11 official languages) containing the minimum requirements set out in this Act, which may be used as a guideline by the tenants and the landlords. Thus making is easy and affordable to put the agreed upon terms onto paper and further to ensure both parties are entering on equal footing and protection by law.
Cora agrees that even these basic guidelines to her rights and duties when entering a lease agreement are useful and should the Pro Forma Lease agreement or the Act have been known to her upon the conclusion thereof, she would not be in a position where the foundational terms of their agreement are in dispute and she has no way to back up her perceptions / intentions / misconceptions when the contract was orally concluded.
Should this agreement have been reduced to writing in the first place (as now required by Law) there would be no uncertainty and no ambiguity in what is being charged and what is being received by either party.
By taking an easy read through the Rental Housing Act [as amended] Cora has realised that her fear of entering into a “written agreement” was unfounded. That the lease need not be 70 pages long with complicated legalese, Annexures and random terms no-one understands. Their rights just need to be laid out and their duties in respect of the property need to be clear. Once Cora followed the guidance in the Act, her and her landlord concluded one A4 page wherein their respective obligations (and all the other stipulations in terms of the Act) were written down and agreed to by initialling next to each and signing at the bottom. There can therefore be no dispute from now on as to who is to do what in terms of the lease and what powers each has in terms of the agreement.
- The Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999;
- The Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014;
- http://www.mylexisnexis.co.za/Index.aspx (accessed on 18/04/2016 at 23:31pm).