Answer to a question from a reader

My previous landlord doesn't want to give me back my money and now he has blocked me. What should I do?

The short answer

You can lay a complaint at the Rental Housing Tribunal.

The whole question

I rented a place from January till June, for which I signed a contract. In June my mum told the landlord that I will move out, because she couldn't pay the rent and transport anymore. However, in June I paid the rent for June and July. I moved out on the 26 June, yet he didn't give me my money for July. I tried contacting him today but he has blocked me. What can I do?

The long answer

Usually a lease agreement or contract with the landlord is for a fixed period like 12 months. In South African law under the Consumer Protection Act of 2008 and the Rental Housing Act of 1999, a lease can be cancelled early by either the landlord or the tenant as long as they both agree to it. This is easier if there is a cancellation clause in the contract which sets out the terms of ending the lease early.

A tenant does have the right to cancel the lease contract early if they give the landlord 20 working days notice. But then the landlord is allowed to charge a reasonable cancellation fee which should be agreed in the lease agreement. If there is no cancellation clause, the tenant may be liable to pay a reasonable cancellation fee. Usually if there is six months or less to go on a lease, the landlord would charge one month’s rent.

It could be that your landlord considers the July rent to be a reasonable cancellation fee, but then he has to explain this to you, not block you.

If you paid a security deposit, this must also be returned to you together with the interest it accrued in the bank, unless you and your landlord have checked the property together before you left and agreed that some or all of the deposit could be used to repair damage that you caused to the property.

If you have a dispute with your landlord, you can lay a complaint at the Rental Housing Tribunal. This is a provincial government service which can be used by both tenants and landlords. It is a free service that tries to mediate disputes between landlords and tenants. The Tribunal will try to settle the dispute by mediation but if the parties cannot agree, it will make a ruling which has the same force as a magistrate’s court ruling.

You can find out how to contact your provincial Rental Housing Tribunal online or by phoning 0860 106 166/ 011 355 4000/ 012 483 5020.

Answered on July 30, 2020, 12:24 p.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.