Consumer Protection Act & Lease Agreements

A lease agreement establishes terms between a tenant and landlord, creating a consumer-supplier relationship with legal obligations for both parties.

March 22, 2024

The function of a lease agreement is to regulate the terms of engagement between a tenant and a landlord, and the relationship created by such agreements is that of a consumer and supplier- the consumer being the tenant of the property while the landlord assumes the position of a supplier.  Like any other contract, leases are legally binding, and they have legal consequences if the terms are not honoured by parties to the agreement, i.e. the landlord or the tenant.

Lease agreements are particularly helpful because they protect both the tenant and the landlord when disputes relating to the lease agreement arise. However, due to the inherent unequal bargaining powers that exist between a supplier and consumer, it is generally easier for the landlord to hold the tenant accountable because they usually retain some level of control over the leased property.

The more difficult question is whether a tenant can hold the landlord accountable if the supply of the service and the rental property is defective; and if so, how? The Procon G v Mereket Woldesys and Another case shed some light on the protection available to the tenant/consumer where the landlord fails to tender a service(s) that is/are reasonably acceptable and is/are free from defects. The court stated that tenants can refer to the terms of the lease agreement for recourse, but this does not preclude them from pursuing other legal remedies. Some of these remedies are outlined in the Consumer Protection Act.

Section 54(1)(b) read together with Section 54(2)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act states that the consumer has the right to demand service in a manner and quality that persons are generally entitled to expect.

The court further stated that lease agreements should always be interpreted with section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act in mind to promote the primary purposes of the Consumer Protection Act, i.e. the creation of a consumer market that is fair, accessible and responsible for the benefit of consumers. This simply means that whenever the court is adjudicating matters concerning lease disputes, they need to interpret the lease agreement in a manner that protects and promotes the interests of the tenant, to protect them from potential exploitative practices by the landlord.

What is made clear by the Procon G v Mereket Woldesys and Another judgment is that tenants in rental properties are protected by the Consumer Protection Act. Where landlords do not honour lease agreements or perform satisfactorily, the tenant is allowed to demand that the landlord do so and if the landlord still refuses to honour the lease agreement, the tenant is allowed to approach the court and use provisions of the Consumer Protection Act to force the landlord to perform as expected.

Written by: Keabetswe Motaung
Moderated and approved by: Clive Smith

The views in this article are personal and not necessarily endorsed by the firm. The content is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any actions without confirmation from a legal practitioner. The firm and author(s) are not liable for any consequences resulting from actions taken without further consultation.

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