There are certain precautionary steps a tenant must take before concluding a lease. A tenant should check if there is water and electricity on the property and do a thorough inspection to establish any defect.
If the property forms part of a sectional title or share block scheme, the tenant has the right to enquire if the owner is up to date with the levy.
In addition to this critical enquiry, the tenant should request permission to view the body corporate conduct rules to have an idea of what rules may affect the tenant's rights or needs. For instance, a rule may not allow pets on the property and a tenant who has a pet, should not enter into a lease.
A tenant should avoid committing to a lease if the property is under renovation or being repaired or told that repairs would be done.
Signing a lease with a person who claims to be an agent can be problematic. Before signing the lease, ask to speak to the owner if it is not possible to meet him or her.
Last month, a tenant who responded to an advertisement, viewed the property and thereafter signed a lease, paid the security deposit and a month's rental in advance. He met a person on the property who was undertaking certain repairs and was informed that the property would be available for occupation within two weeks.
When the tenant moved his belongings on to the property, he discovered serious defects. There were no taps in the bathroom and no electricity supply to the property.
He contacted the "agent" who had carried out the repairs. The "agent" claimed that he installed the taps and once all the repairs were done, he handed the keys to the tenant. As for electricity, the municipality removed the meter because the previous tenant illegally connected electricity.
The tenant, upset and angry, contacted the owner, who said it could take months before the electricity problem could be resolved. She did not have the money to pay the arrear charges and the fine for the illegal tampering of the meter.
The tenant demanded that the owner comply with the lease by providing the leased property fit for the condition it was let.
After several attempts to resolve the deadlock, the owner's response was that the "maintenance man" did not have authority to conclude a lease on her behalf. The owner also accused the tenant of "vandalising" the property and stealing the taps.
The tenant may cancel for breach and sue the owner or demand the owner perform on the lease. Should the tenant decide to compel performance of the lease, he is entitled to a rental reduction for the serious or major breach.
The nature of the breach eventually determines if the court or the rental housing tribunal will allow the innocent party the right to cancel and to be free of his or her obligation without being held liable for not performing.