Being a landlord without having a signed, written lease agreement can be fraught with challenges. Not to mention the high probability of regular he-said-she-said arguments with your tenant. It can be extremely difficult to protect your interests as landlord and owner of your property if you don’t have a written and signed lease agreement. So if you’re planning on renting out your property, a good place to start is drafting your contract of lease. Here are some tips to help you on your way.
Know your rental laws
Be aware of the laws around management of your property and the legal rights of landlords and tenants. Once you have familiarised yourself with South Africa’s rental laws you’ll be in a better position to draft and adjust your lease agreement, knowing exactly what you can and cannot put in the agreement.
Use plain language. A contract of lease that is poorly written, ambiguous, overly complicated or confusing to read can easily be misinterpreted by the tenant and may not hold ground in the court. Use easy-to-understand language and terminology, and clarify anything that could be potentially be misunderstood.
Rental and deposit
Include the monthly rental to be paid, as well as the deposit required to be paid. Clearly indicate the date by which the rent is due, as well as the penalty interest the tenant can expect to incur on any late payments. This will help avoid misunderstandings. And in the case of default, it will help if you need to enforce the payment of penalty interest.
Duration of the lease
Make it clear how long the lease will last for (this cannot exceed 24 months), and specify conditions attached to the tenant’s right to renew. And, of course, make sure there’s agreement on what date the tenant is able to move in.
State of the property
Before the tenant moves in, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is in a livable condition. The condition of the property (as it was when the tenant moves in) should be stipulated, including anything that is damaged or missing.
Specify in the lease agreement if pets are allowed on the property. And if so, what type of animals, whether there’s an application process, and whether there’re any conditions attached to bringing pets into the property.
Number of occupants
Specify if there’s a limitation on the number of people permitted to live on the property. A general rule of thumb is a maximum of two people per bedroom. If the property is a sectional title unit then the body corporate conduct rules will most likely include this restriction.
If you require your tenants to pay a security deposit for any damages that occur during the rental period, be sure to specifically mention when and under what circumstances the deposit will be returned.
Maintenance and repairs
As the landlord, it is usually your responsibility to maintain and repair the property. However, there are certain maintenance responsibilities that you can designate to the tenant (such as maintaining the pool and garden). And if damages are due to the tenants’ wrongful acts or neglect, they should be responsible for the repairs.
If there is a code of conduct, be sure to make reference to it in the lease agreement, and attach a copy of the Conduct Rules. For example, if no music is allowed after a certain time at night, or visitors need to sign in with security. This way your tenant are fully aware of what they are and are not allowed to do.
Consequences of breach
In the case of the tenant breaching the lease agreement or failing to pay the rent on time, clearly state the notice period for any letter of demand, including the landlord’s right to terminate the contract and evict the tenant.
In short, a Lease Agreement is the most important issue that every landlord should attend to before leasing out their property. The cost of not having a Lease Agreement in place can be prohibitive. Especially if you need to get lawyers involved or have to get the courts’ assistance to enforce your rights. If you’re not comfortable drafting your own Lease Agreement, relax! We’ve done the hard work for you. You can get your editable Lease Agreement template from Agreements Online.
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.