Know your place: rights and obligations of tenants

The rights and obligations of tenants is a topic well covered in South African law. We have both statutory and common law on this matter. Knowing your rights and obligations as a tenant is critical to understanding your role in the relationship of landlord-tenant. In this post we will look at some of the important rights and obligations of tenants in this relationship.


As a tenant, you have the obligation to pay the proper amount of rent in the proper commodity at the proper place and time. You are required to make prompt and regular payment not only of rent but also of other charges that are payable in terms of the lease, for example electricity and water. You have a right to receive an invoice that provides a breakdown of these costs and a receipt for all money paid to your landlord. Your landlord cannot change the rent during the fixed term period.


You have an obligation to take care of the property. You need to maintain it at a standard fit for the purpose for which it was let. The general idea is that you can ask your landlord to maintain the main structure of the home which includes plumbing and electrical, but your obligation lies with damage caused by wear, for example fixing a broken lightbulb or worn tap washer. Fair wear and tear accepted.

You should also not use the property for any purposes other than that for which it was let. Your lease agreement is a good starting point to gain clarity on what you may use your property for and what you may not. If you are ever in doubt, it is a good idea to check with your landlord whether you may use your property for a certain function. Then get any agreement on the point in writing.

In addition to the above obligations of tenants, you have a duty to restore the property to the good condition you received it in at the termination of the lease, fair wear and tear accepted.


You are obliged to pay a deposit in case there are damages. This deposit should be agreed upon between you and your landlord upfront. You and the landlord have to have an incoming and outgoing inspection of the premises for damages. Based on the outcome of the comparative inspections, at the end of your lease you may have the right to be refunded your deposit, or you may forfeit that deposit. If it is determined that there are no damages, you are entitled to a refund of your deposit within 7 days. If it is determined that damage was caused, the deposit should be refunded within 14 days of restoration of the property.

The rights and obligations of tenants: Need help?

If you require any advice regarding the obligations of tenants, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

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