In the dynamic landscape of landlord-tenant relationships in South Africa, it is crucial for both parties to understand their rights, responsibilities, and legal boundaries when it comes to rent payments and utilities. This newsletter provides essential insights for landlords and tenants, shedding light on permissible actions, legal restrictions, and the steps to take in case of non-payment.


What Landlords Can’t Do:

Landlords, while having rights and remedies, must adhere to strict legal restrictions. They cannot lock tenants out, change locks without providing new keys, seize goods without a court order, intimidate or threaten tenants, or obstruct entry into the property. Engaging in any of these actions may constitute a crime.


What Landlords Can Do:

When faced with late rent or utility payments, landlords should promptly contact tenants to understand the reasons. If there is a valid reason, a payment plan may be negotiated. If the tenant consistently refuses to pay, the landlord may issue a written notice of breach, giving the tenant a specified period, usually 20 business days, to settle the outstanding amount. Failure to comply allows the landlord to cancel the lease agreement. Subsequently, with a court-granted eviction order, the tenant can be legally removed from the property.

Importantly, landlords are strictly prohibited from taking any eviction steps without obtaining a court order. Seeking legal advice before proceeding is strongly advised.


Top Tips for Landlords:

  1. Maintain a detailed record of communications, including rent receipts and notices.
  2. Understand tenant rights and responsibilities under the Rental Housing Act.
  3. Issue a written notice of breach as the initial step in case of non-payment.
  4. Apply to the court for an eviction order if the tenant fails to pay.
  5. Do not take any eviction steps without obtaining a court order.


What Tenants Can’t Do:

Tenants, too, have obligations under the Rental Housing Act. They cannot fail to pay rent or utilities without a valid reason, damage the property, use it for illegal purposes, sublet without consent, make alterations without consent, keep pets without consent, or allow unauthorised individuals to reside on the property.


What Tenants Can Do:

Communication is paramount. Tenants facing financial difficulties or other concerns should contact their landlord or agent promptly. In cases of eviction, tenants should reach out to the Rental Housing Tribunal—an independent body that resolves disputes, offers advice, and mediates.

If the Tribunal is unable to resolve the issue, tenants may need to apply for an interdict, a court order preventing specific actions by the landlord, such as eviction or cutting off utilities.


Top Tips for Tenants:

  1. Keep copies of lease agreements, rent receipts, and relevant documents.
  2. Understand rights and responsibilities under the Rental Housing Act.
  3. Pay rent on time and maintain the property.
  4. Regularly communicate with the landlord or letting agent to address issues promptly.


In conclusion, knowledge of rights and responsibilities is vital for both landlords and tenants. While landlords expect timely rent payments, tenants have the right to reside in their rented property without fear of illegal eviction, with recourse to the Rental Housing Tribunal if needed.