How to Enforce your Tenant Rights

Your tenant rights are protected by law and no lease agreement can make you sign away those rights!

Have a close look at your property rental agreement and satisfy yourself that your renters rights are not infringed upon.

Any illegal clauses must be corrected by the landlord and cannot be enforced.

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Having your dwelling in a fit state to live in, is an obligation of the landlord and one of your most important tenant rights.

So, if the landlord does not effect repairs, whether requested by phone, or in writing if so required by your lease, you can withhold a portion of the rent. This is sometimes the only way to force a landlord into action, but you must follow proper procedure!

The landlord must be allowed reasonable time to effect repairs:

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  • Emergency repairs - gas leak, roof damage, flooding etc. require action within 24 hours
  • Major repairs - blocked drain, defective heating, geyser etc. must be repaired within a reasonable amount of time
  • Minor repairs - defective lighting, peeling paint, pests etc. Note: If the property was pest-free when you moved in, you have to take care of pest control yourself.

As much as you have tenant rights, the landlord also has rights and must be given fair opportunity to see to his obligations. Phone the landlord and explain the repairs required. If he does not take action within a reasonable amount of time, you have to get it in writing in your Letter to Landlord. (The whole process will be explained there).

Important: If you withhold any portion of the rent you should deposit it in an escrow account. This will show that you were not defaulting on the payment, but were withholding it because of the landlord's legal obligation not being fulfilled. Once the problem is solved, the amount can be released to the landlord.

You can also pay for repairs and deduct the amount from the rent provided:

  • You obtained three quotes for repair and forwarded that to the landlord
  • You notified the landlord in writing that you will go ahead with the repairs unless he does so by a certain date and that you will deduct the costs from the rent.

A variety of sample letters to cover different eventualities are available on the Letter to Landlord page.

Withholding rent must only be used as a last resort to enforce your tenant rights and you must be absolutely sure that you follow correct legal procedure.

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