Authors: Kim Bam – Legal Expert
3 May 2021
My landlord has increased my rent twice this year. I can’t afford this, what can I do?
A Property24 Reader wants to know what grounds they have to contest a surprise rental increase sprung on them by their landlord, who is allegedly changing the terms and inclusions of their lease agreement without discussing it with them.
“My rent was increased by R500 in January 2021. Now being April 2021, I was informed of another increase of R1800. I pay all utilies separate to the rental amount.
“I have been renting the house for more than 8 years now and never defaulted with payment. No maintenance was ever done by my landlord, I had everything repaired myself at my own expense.
The Property24 reader goes on to explain that the surprise rental increase is not the only issue they’re experiencing as a tenant.
“In January of 2020, a family member of the landlord put up a structure in one side of the double garage to make a living quarters for himself with no toilet facilities. He is dumping his crap in the drain by the outside tap. He also uses water, electricity and refuse at our (myself and other paying tenants) expense. I no longer have parking space for my vehicle, which was included in my initial occupation at the premises.
“The covid pandemic has taken it’s toll on many of us, and I’m not able to afford another increase now – and not such a big amount!”
Legal Expert Kim Bam responds and shares the following advice.
“Without sight of the lease agreement, one will have to refer to the Rental Housing Act (“the Act”) and common law.
“While it is not uncommon for a landlord to increase the rental, this must be done in accordance with the lease agreement that had been signed. The landlord may not increase the rental on an arbitrary decision. If there is no lease or clause providing for an increase the landlord may only increase the rental if it agreed by both parties.
“Ultimately the utilities remain the responsibility of the landlord/ property owner, however it appears you and the landlord have agreed whether via the lease or verbal agreement that you would be settling the utilities each month. This agreement is binding and places the utilities cost on your account.
“The landlord is responsible for “fair wear and tear” on the property however if there is significant damage which is caused by or through the tenant the tenant will be liable for the repairs. Generally during the exit inspection, the landlord together with the tenant will assess the property and any damage will be recovered from the deposit.
“During the lease period a tenant has the right to privacy on the premises. The landlord may not even come and inspect the property without prior notice to the tenant. To place another person there is a could result in a violation of your privacy.
“A dispute between the tenant and landlord can be resolved at the relevant court or alternatively the rental housing tribunal.”
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