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A security deposit is a refundable deposit that a tenant pays to their landlord before they move into a property. As long as a tenant abides by the terms of their lease, this deposit should be returned to a tenant when their lease has expired. However there are certain situations where a landlord is allowed to keep all or part of a tenant’s security deposit.

1. Early Termination of Lease

If a tenant breaks their lease, the landlord can keep all or part of the security deposit necessary to cover the costs associated with this breach. This may depend on the wording of your lease and if an early termination clause has been included in the lease the tenant signed, they will have to abide by these terms.

A landlord may also be able to charge the tenant the court costs or attorney fees necessary if you have taken legal action against them.

2. Non-payment of Rent

The landlord may keep all or a portion of the security deposit when the tenant does not pay their rent. Non-payment of rent is considered a breach of lease. When a tenant does not fulfil their contractual obligation to pay their monthly rent, the landlord may be allowed to keep the portion of this security deposit necessary to cover the lost rent.

3. Damage to the Property

Another reason a landlord will be entitled to keep a tenant’s security deposit is because they have caused damage to the property, which is different than normal wear and tear. A few small stains on a carpet, faded paintwork and blinds, a few loose handles and a sticky roller shutter door may be regarded as fair ware and tear. However, broken windows and doors, badly stained or damaged carpets or warehouse floors, damaged light fittings, plug points and wiring, large holes in the walls or broken porcelain in ablution facilities will all fall outside the definition of acceptable fair ware and tear.

4. Cleaning Costs

Normally, the landlord cannot keep the security deposit to clean the property due to normal usage. A landlord is expected to clean the unit before the next tenant moves in. However, he may be able to keep the security deposit if the cleaning necessary is excessive.

5. Money Owed for Utilities

A landlord may be able to keep a tenant’s security deposit to cover any utilities they have neglected to pay and were required to pay as part of their lease.

For more information on purchasing, renting or investing in commercial and industrial property in Cape Town, please contact Robert Ryll | Cell Number: 082 374 2662 | Landline: 021 552 4100 or Email:

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