Tenants, here’s how to get your FULL deposit back
According to a poll conducted by HomeTimes, 48% of South African tenants receive their rental deposit back in full on the conclusion of their rental term.
The remaining 52% of tenants report that they received a portion of their rental back.
While we did not ask the reasons for them not receiving their rental back in full, we can safely assume that damages to the property meant their landlords were entitled to keep a reasonable portion of their security deposit for repairs.
The best advice to any tenant is to start the rental process the right way. Fundamental to this is conducting an ingoing inspection together with the landlord/managing agent, recording ALL faults as they are discovered. Ensure they are recorded in writing and photographically.
“Not testing a light switch, a cupboard handle, or recording a crack in a floor tile can mean you will be held liable for the snag on vacating the home,” says David A Steynberg, director of HomeTimes. “Being meticulous about all faults – even if it takes two hours to do this – is vital to getting your deposit back in full.”
Accidents happen: the kids hit cricket balls through windows, distracted parents place hot pots on laminated countertops, and light bulbs do not last forever. If you break it, you fix it. If you do decide to leave it for the exit inspection, don’t be surprised when it gets deducted from your deposit.
A friendly check in with your landlord or rental agent letting them know that the stove fuse blew and that you repaired it is a great way of keeping your landlord in the know with regards to their investment, as well as having a documented record of communication during your tenancy.
“Obviously, you don’t need to report that you changed the light bulbs,” says Steynberg, noting that the “small stuff” is immaterial to the landlord. “Whenever my tenant has phoned or texted me, it has been to let me know that the tap washers are worn and need replacing, or that one of the hinges on the built-in cupboard has pulled loose from the chipboard. I prefer to hear this first from the tenant, and not discover it during the exit inspection.”
When you rent a property, look after it. Take pride in your home – it is your HOME for the period in which you occupy it.
Landlords are generally open to you drilling holes into walls to hang your precious photographs and artworks – just do it neatly and fill up all holes, properly, before the exit inspection. If your landlord is not open to this, do not go against their wishes; instead find other ways of displaying your photos and personal items.
“What I want from a tenant is rent paid on time and in full, as little hassle as possible, and open, respectful communication,” says Steynberg. “If you leave my property in the same condition – or better than when you moved in – I’ll happily pay your deposit back to you and wish you well with your future.”
The most expensive part of the rental game is advertising for, vetting and securing new, unknown tenants. Your best tenant is one who stays for more than one rental term.
“My current tenant is vacating my apartment after renting from me for four years,” says Steynberg. “She made my property her home, and is only leaving because she got married and is moving to a different province. She has already helped me to vet three potential tenants and is my best advocate: tenants do not only rent because of the home, the way the landlord treats their tenant is also a factor. All potential tenants ask vacating tenants what the landlord is like. If you have been a great landlord, your tenant will tell others, helping you to secure other great tenants.”
Getting your deposit back in full at the end of your rental term is never a guarantee, but if you keep your side of the deal, your landlord will have little reason to hold onto your deposit.