I am a former tenant. My ex landlord is ...

Asked by AlainaE on 22-08-2022 13:24:30
Question posted in the Landlord Tenant Law category relating to Gauteng

I am a former tenant. My ex-landlord is refusing to refund our deposit and interest on the basis that we owe her for services.We have been privately renting from a family member since January 2015. We everything was done very formally in the beginning - R7000 deposit paid, monthly invoices with water and services amounts due, etc. After the first year, half the tenants moved out and the lease agreement was never renewed, and we were considered on a month to month verbal.However, also after the first year we never got any invoices. None for the rent, none for the services, nothing. We continued paying monthly, and over the years initiated several increases of our own accord to take into account any water and services (the landlord claims after the first year we also dropped the rent, but unfortunately our records don't go this far back and I cannot confirm nor deny this). I can however confirm that we were also made to pay for any repairs and maintenance as, per the landlord, "we live there, we must fix the place". This included any repairs and maintenance to fixtures such as plumbing or cabinets. The only time the landlord assisted was when it was something insurance would cover. We paid in excess of R15k in repairs, maintance and security upgrades as we did have a breach several years ago.In February 2022, the landlord was invited as a guest to stay for a short term, but then cited medical reasons as an excuse to stay there indefinitely. We did not consent to this and in fact, requested that she leave in May 2022. She did not, and in June 2022 decided to rather take all our items out the garage and put them in our spare room, and turn the garage into private living quarters. At this stage we did decrease the rent (citing a rental remission) as we had lost functionality of our garage, guest room and she was using our furniture (TV, bed, fridge/ freezer, mini oven/ stove). Also in June 2022, she had an attorney's letter served on us to vacate within 30 days, citing that she is the owner and the living arrangement was not healthy for her, and that she was paying for the water on the property. We went back to say in the absence of a lease agreement, she needs to give us a calendar months' notice per our original lease agreement, yes she's paying for water but she doesn't issue us with invoices for us to pay which is why we've made the increases, also note we paid a deposit so we expect that to be paid once we vacate. She ageed via her attorney to pay within seven days of us leaving.We left, and she still had possession of most of our furniture until 21 August 2022 (we had to basically force her to sort out her own furniture so we could get ours back, to which she claimed she was being bullied). She still has our bed.She still has not paid back our deposit, and when asking about it, says she will not pay it back because we owe her for water. She has verbally admitted to several people she never asked us to pay for water (and we did request figures several times, but we were never furnished with them). A rental agent has also said to us that in the absence of a lease agreement and invoices, we didn't even need to pay anything over and above the last formal, documented rental figure.I would like to find out how do we get our deposit back, as I have been warned that the SCC doesn't really take the tenants side on deposit payments. Could we send her a letter of demand and would this be a valid letter?Thank you.

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