Your deposit - know the rules

The rules of the game, with regards to rental deposits, are clearly defined in the Rental Housing Act. Follow the rules to ensure a speedy pay out.

It is of utmost importance that a joint inspection of the property is conducted together with either the landlord or the agent before occupation, as well as when the lease expires, to record the condition of the property. Any defects should be written down and signed for by both parties. Ideally, a list of keys provided, should also be drawn up and signed for. If the landlord or agent does not perform these inspections with the tenant on  the expiry of the lease, it will be deemed as an acknowledgement that no damage occurred during the tenant's stay.

If you, as the tenant, are aware of damages that you have caused, which fall outside the scope of fair wear and tear, have it fixed before you vacate the property. Read the article - That leaking toilet - whose problem is it anyway - for more information on the responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant. This will speed up the process of finalising the deposit.

Ensure that the house is clean, the garden tidy and the pool clear before handing keys back. Have carpets professionally cleaned.

Make sure that all keys provided on occupation are returned on the expiry of the lease. If all keys are not returned, the landlord or agent will have the right to have locks replaced and  to deduct the cost from the tenant's deposit.

If there are no deductions to be made or damages to repair, the deposit has to be refunded within 7 days after the expiry of the lease agreement. If there are damages, the landlord or agent has to finalise the deposit within 14 days after repairs have been done. This does not mean that the landlord can drag his feet with the repairs. The Rental Housing Tribunal can instruct the landlord to refund the deposit immediately if the repairs are not done as a matter of urgency.

If the tenant fails to meet the landlord or agent for the outgoing inspection, and there are no damages, the deposit has to be refunded within 21 days after expiry of the lease.

The landlord has to determine the damages, based on the ingoing and outgoing inspections, and obtain quotes to have the damage repaired at the most reasonable cost. The landlord may not improve the property at the expense of the tenant.

As final electricity and water figures are often not yet avaialble at the end of the lease period, the landlord is allowed to finalise the deposit, and retain a retention amount to cover these costs. The remainder of the deposit has to be paid to the tenant immediately when the figures are available.

If the deposit is kept in an interest bearing trust account by the landlord, the deposit with all interest accrued, minus damages and deductions, has to be paid to the tenant. If an agent keeps the deposit in an interest bearing trust account, the interest paid to the tenant will be determined by the lease agreement.

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