Hit the nail on the head with rental deposit no-nos

Hammering a single nail or hook into the wall of a rented unit, or using Prestick to attach something to it, can cost a tenant dearly when then they move out.

Wendy Knowler

And because few people are happy with totally blank walls in their home, many a tenant has their deposit refund dramatically reduced by landlords or rental agents, to cover the cost of “making good” the walls of the unit.

The Rental Housing Act does not allow landlords to charge tenants for wear and tear issues such as a leaking toilet or a rusted fixture, but damage is a different story.

Move out leaving the carpet stained or burnt, or a nail or two in the lounge wall, and you wave goodbye to getting your deposit refunded in full.

In fact, you may have a very large chunk of your deposit deducted for what seems like very minor remedial work.

Henco Kruger told In Your Corner that his in-laws have been quoted R1760 for removing and patching two nails in the braai area, and two sets of hooks in the kitchen area of the rental unit they vacated in Buh-Rein, Cape Town, last month.

The agents, MSP Rentals, had sent the couple an exit notice letter a month before they moved out, stating that “all holes” were to be filled and the complete wall repainted.

“We do not accept touch-up painting.”

At the exit inspection, conducted by an MSP inspector with the couple present, flagged the nails and hooks, and then came that repair quote – from MSP Maintenance – yes, a sister company to the rental agents.

Removing nails from the braai area made up R835 of that quote alone: R525 for materials and R310 for an hour and a half of labour.

“It’s totally ridiculous,” Kruger said. “I am very capable of doing that restoration work myself, but they won’t allow me to.”

An MSP Rentals spokesman said a second quote had since been sourced for the work, but it wasn’t much cheaper than the first.

Given the exit notice letter’s disclosure, and the fact that both the ingoing and exit inspections were done jointly, as required by the Rental Housing Act, at this point the former tenants have no choice but to agree to the best quote which the agents present them with.

The Rental Housing Act allows landlords to deduct from a departed tenant’s deposit to cover the cost of restoring a damaged wall, a door or tiled floor – beyond normal wear and tear, that is – provided they can prove that the tenant was responsible for it.

What many tenants don’t know is that the Act states that if the landlord fails to inspect a “dwelling” when the tenant moves out – in the presence of the tenant – this is taken as an acknowledgement that it’s in a good state and they must then refund the full deposit, plus interest, within a week.

Tammy Coetzee had R2100 deduced from her deposit when she vacated a flat she’d rented for three years in Warner Beach on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, to cover the repainting of the entire flat and replacing a few lightbulbs.

She objected, pointing out that she’d moved in while the previous tenants were moving out, and the flat was not repainted at the time, leaving her with less-than-perfect walls, including Prestick marks, for the three years of her rental.

And the bulbs were missing when she moved in, she says.

Most importantly, there was neither a joint ingoing or exit inspection done with the agents – Acutts Highway – so on that basis alone, her deposit should have been refunded in full.

The agency argued that Coetzee had moved out a week before the lease ended, forfeiting her right to the exit inspection. But Coetzee points out that she was moving into her sister’s flat, one floor up in the same block, and did so slowly over the course of that last week, but did not receive an invitation to attend an exit inspection.

She has lodged a dispute with the Rental Housing Tribunal in Durban.


Make sure that the landlord or rental agent goes through a rental unit with you before you move in, noting all the defects, missing keys, cracked window panes and the like, and then repeat the exercise jointly just before you move out.

It’s also a very good idea to take your own photos as you go into and then vacate a unit, and e-mail both sets to the agent or landlord on the day you took them.

Think twice before knocking any nail or hook into a rental unit’s wall or cupboard, and if you do, remove them and restore the surface, expertly, yourself, before you move out.

If you feel that your deposit has been unfairly withheld or reduced, lodge a dispute with the Rental Housing Tribunal in your area. Call 0860-106-166 for more information.


E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za

Twitter: @wendyknowler


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