An introduction to South Africa's rental market


If you’re looking for a rental property for three to six months, it’s best not to rent unseen but to rent a holiday apartment for a week or two to allow yourself time to look around for a long-term rental.

Properties for rent are advertised in South African newspapers and magazines, including expatriate publications, and can also be found through property publications in many countries. Many estate agents offer short-term rentals, and builders and developers may rent properties to potential buyers.

Short-term rentals (i.e. up to three months) can be found through local tourist offices in South Africa and the South African State Tourist Offices abroad, travel agents, the internet and many overseas newspapers. The best newspapers in the UK are the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and Observer, all of which contain holiday rental classifieds from British home owners in South Africa.

Rental Housing Act

When you’ve chosen a property to rent, you must make an offer in writing. If an estate agent is handling the transaction, he will usually draw up a lease for you to sign (and might ask you for credit references and/or proof of income). If you aren’t buying through an agent, you can ask a lawyer to draft a lease or you can do so yourself, using the Rental Housing Act for guidance. All residential leases are governed by the Rental Housing Act, which stipulates that a rental lease must contain the following:

  • The landlord’s name and address;
  • The tenant’s name and address;
  • The address of the property;
  • The rent and any escalation (increases in rent over a period of time);
  • Any other costs that the tenant must pay;
  • When the rent must be paid, usually the first day of every calendar month;
  • The amount of any deposit required;
  • The period of the lease;
  • The landlord’s and tenant’s obligations to each other;
  • A list of the property’s existing defects, if any;
  • Any house rules that the tenant has to obey;
  • A list of fixtures and furniture (if applicable).

The law imposes the following obligations on landlords and tenants:

  • The landlord must issue a detailed written receipt for every payment received from the tenant.
  • If a deposit is paid, the landlord must invest it in an interest-bearing bank account and must give the tenant a written statement of the interest earned whenever the tenant asks for one.

Before the tenant moves in, he and the landlord must inspect the property and compile a list of any defects, which must be attached to the lease. When the tenant moves out, he and the landlord must inspect the property again to assess whether any damage has been done. If no damage has been done, the landlord must refund the tenant’s deposit and the interest within seven days; if there’s damage, the landlord can pay for any repairs out of the deposit and refund the balance and the interest within 14 days.

Further reading

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