Legal Advice

Except for a few Oppidans who live at home, Oppidans are all tenants. Some of them have entered into lease agreements with landlords, whilst others are sub-tenants of the main tenant.

The most important aspect of any lease agreement is that you should carefully read it before signing. In essence, you are the author of your rights and duties. If there is an aspect that you do not like then propose changes. There is nothing sacred about the printed word. Do not hesitate from picking up your pen and ruler and deleting passages that you do not approve of before signing. You could also add that which you consider to be missing. Of course the landlord or her agent may not agree to the proposed changes. Then it is an issue of how badly do you want the digs. Its all a matter of negotiation.

If there are aspects that you do not understand then get advice. There are plenty of senior law students about. You will find many having tea outside the law building at 10h30 and 15h00 on almost any day from Monday to Friday. Most would be capable of answering your question in a moment. The Rhodes Legal Aid Clinic is also an option, provided you pass the means test. Their services are not available to the affluent that can afford to pay a lawyer. The Oppidan Hall Warden, Gordon Barker, is a law lecturer and is always available to assist in advice concerning lease agreements.

Here are a few pitfalls:

  • If you sign as the principal tenant you remain liable even if your sub-tenant leaves. What about the possibility of her leaving because of poor results in June, health reasons etc? To protect yourself to some extent you should request a month’s deposit from your sub-tenant even if this person is your best friend. Remember she could soon be your former best friend.
  • Inspect the premises carefully before you move in. Make an inventory of the cracked windows, dirty walls, torn carpets etc. and let the landlord have a copy. You might not mind that cracked window but it could be expensive to replace. Best avoid this scenario by checking the place out well at the start.
  • What does the lease say about festival? Some landlords want the right to fill a digs with festival guests for ten days in July. That’s fine providing that you know about this upfront and presumably build this into the rental. On the other hand, the principal tenant may want to let the premises to festival guests. That’s also fine providing the agreement deals with this.

A few points that are worth considering in advance:

  • How often can the landlord inspect the premises?
  • Who pays for the security service?
  • Most digs have pre-paid electricity meters but who pays for the water?
  • Who pays for the garden service?
  • The premises are likely to be insured, but insuring the contents – your property – is up to you.
  • What does the lease say about keeping pets?
  • What does the lease say about noise? If you are planning band practices, its best not to sign a lease that explicitly requires low levels of noise.
  • Digs are sold from time to time. Fortunately you are protected from being evicted by the new owner for the full period of the lease – unless you have agreed to the contrary - so be careful what you agree to.
  • What if Oppidans repair the premises? Reasonable necessary expenses must be reimbursed but it’s best not to get involved with this. Rather call the landlord or the agent and get them to sort the problem out.

Last Modified: Thu, 07 Nov 2019 13:04:34 SAST