'Not enough notice'

A JOHANNESBURG landlord is withholding his tenant's rental deposit on the grounds that he only received a week's notice.

A JOHANNESBURG landlord is withholding his tenant's rental deposit on the grounds that he only received a week's notice.

Sandile Gumede, pictured, a student at Wits, got the shock of his life last week when his landlord told him that he would forfeit his deposit of R3100 because he only gave a week's notice for a lease agreement that ended on June 28.

Gumede claims that he entered into the agreement with Afco Holding for a period of six month.

He said that his lease started in January and he paid the deposit and the rent every month without fail for an apartment in Cavendish Building, Jeppe Street, Johannesburg.

Though he signed a lease for six months, he said his landlord did not give him his agreement and also ignored his requestfor the agreement.

He said he had hoped that he would not have any challenges when his contract expires, but to his shock Ashco told him that he will forfeit his deposit because he waited too long to ask for his deposit .

"I never knew the terms and conditions of the contract until last Wednesday, when they told me my application for a refund was rejected because I gave them one week's notice," said Gumede.

"The landlord should have kept a proper record to show when I am vacating his premises or at least give me a courtesy notice to remind me that I must leave, or give me an option to extend the contract if I wanted to," said Gumede.

The landlord had to deposit the R3100 into a separate interest-bearing account for Gumede's benefit.

Upon termination of the lease, the landlord is obliged to refund the deposit, together with any interest which accrued, to the tenant.

Renney Plit of Afco Property Management said they were within their rights to withhold Gumede's deposit.

He said there was a clause in South African law that states that if you sign an agreement, you are bound by its clauses and cannot afterwards claim that you were unaware of what you had signed.

But Plit said he would not comment on how Gumede should have known about his rights and duties since they had withheld his copy of the lease agreement.

"I cannot comment on whether Gumede received a copy or not or whether he in fact requested a copy," Plit said.

He said landlords in the Joburg inner city use standard terminology in their lease agreements to avoid redrawing them.

The standard terminology reads: "This lease shall endure for a period of 6 months (the initial) commencing on 1 January, 2010, and shall continue thereafter on a month-to-month basis, subject to one calendar month of written notice by either party"

Gumede said this terminology was ambiguous and unfair and was aimed not only at confusing tenants, but also at ripping them off.

"I wanted a contract that expired within six months. They knew this. Keeping the contract just shows the kind of people they really are," he said.

Plit said the lease terminology is standard in the inner-city residential industry amongst all landlords and property managers.

"Were it not so, we would have to redraw a lease agreement every six months and the tenant would need to pay the lease administration fee of R550 every six months.

"Clearly this would not be fair or equitable," Plit said.

"If you are still of the opinion that Gumede is entitled to a deposit refund, kindly advise us with some logical reasoning and we will refund the amount," he said.

He added that they would rather donate the money to Citykidz School bursary fund if Consumer Line concurred with their decision.

"If you agree he is not, and to clearly show that we have not withheld the deposit for monetary gain, Afco will donate the equivalent amount into the Citykidz School bursary fund," Plit said.

The director of Afco, Clifford Ramalamula, also gave Consumer Line a taste of what Gumede had experienced.

Ramalamula ignored several of our e-mails for a copy of the lease agreement that Gumede had signed.

The Rental Housing Tribunal has agreed to entertain Gumede's case.

Handy tips for tenants

l A lease agreement may be terminated at the expiration of its term and no notice is required.

l A lease agreement could be terminated if either party is in breach and has failed to remedy the breach after being given a notice and reasonable time to rectify the breach, except when the breach is due to non-payment of rent.

l A lease could be terminated by agreement between parties.

l A tenant could terminate the lease by giving one month's notice and a landlord could also give one month's notice where a tenant has failed to pay the rental amount as sated in the lease, except where the tenant pays such rental within seven days of the due date and showing good cause for such late payment.

l A landlord shall not evict any tenant from any dwelling without a court order.

l A landlord must issue a receipt to the tenant upon payment of rental. Should the landlord fail or refuse to issue such receipt, the tenant shall be entitled to refuse to pay rent.

l The landlord is entitled to a deposit which does not exceed the sum of the first month's rental.

l The landlord must invest the tenant's deposit into a separate interest-bearing account for the benefit of the tenant.

l Upon termination of the lease, the landlord shall be obliged to refund the deposit, together with any interest which has accrued thereon, to the tenant.