A reader wants to know who is responsible for the payment of water and electricity charges during a lease and how he can compel his former landlord to reimburse his deposit without delay.
With regards to the water and electricity issue, the tenant should check if this item is referenced in the lease agreement.
In terms of the Rental Housing Act a lease must include information on charges payable in addition to the monthly rental.
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Either the landlord or tenant may be liable for water or electricity charges in terms of the agreement.
Should the landlord require the tenant to pay, and the parties agreed as such, the charges must be identified in the lease agreement to be enforceable.
If the lease does not address payments in addition to the rental, it could reasonably be inferred that the water and electricity charges are included.
Even in cases where water and electricity charges are included in the rental, it is important to check the lease agreement as these costs may be subject to a fixed maximum monthly amount or reasonable usage to prevent abuse.
The second issue revolves around the fact that the reader has not been repaid his deposit, including accrued interest, after eight days.
A landlord must, in terms of the act, invest a deposit in an interest-bearing account with a financial institution.
The act adds that the landlord is obliged to repay the deposit together with interest but subject to any deductions for which the tenant is liable.
This includes the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period and the cost of replacing lost keys, if any.
It is quite common for a landlord to delay the refunding of the deposit for no other reason than that he failed to properly invest it and is unable to accurately account for the interest.
The act states that on the expiration of the lease the landlord must, where no amounts are due, refund the deposit with interest within seven days.
In the event of damages being repaired to the dwelling, the balance of the deposit and interest must be refunded within 14 days of the restoration.
If no repairs are required and the landlord has failed to refund the deposit timeously, the reader could refer the matter to the Rental Housing Tribunal to enforce the provisions of the act applicable to the payment of his deposit.
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