A Supreme Court judgment which has outlawed the payment of non-refundable rent deposit, has been received with mixed feelings among landlords and tenants in this Mashonaland West provincial capital.
Tenants have over the years complained that landlords are not refunding them rent deposits, a situation that forced businessman, Lin Zhongmin, to seek recourse in Zimbabwe’s courts.
Zhongmin filed a complaint in the High Court in March 2010, demanding a refund of a $10,000 deposit paid to Goodliving Real Estate owned by Harare businessman, Jerome Ndubiisi Okeke.
The court ruled in favour of Zhongmin, prompting Okeke to make an appeal in the Supreme Court which was dismissed with costs on Monday by Judge of Appeal Bharat Patel, who ruled that it is illegal to charge any deposits or other fee which is non-refundable apart from rent itself.
Patel said requesting tenants for such payments, including goodwill, is prohibited and criminalized by the law as it violates some provisions of the Commercial Premises Rent Regulations of 1983.
Some property owners were cashing in on tenants by charging non-refundable deposits when letting out residential and commercial property in most parts of Zimbabwe, including Chinhoyi.
There have been mixed feelings over Patel’s judgement here with lodgers welcoming it while landlords indicate that they are bound to lose a lot in terms of full rent payments, property maintenance and related issues.
A local man, Tendai Keni, who is renting some residential property in Chinhoyi, says many people struggle to raise these deposits being demanded by landlords. As a result, Keni is happy about the Supreme Court ruling.
Keni says landlords are demanding deposits that are equivalent to monthly rentals, which range from $40 to $60 for a single room in high density suburbs.
He says landlords in low density suburbs demand rent deposits of up to $2,000 that are, in most cases, not refunded when someone decides to look for alternative accommodation.
But landlord Shadrek Motsi says the court decision will cause chaos as most lodgers will be thrown out of rented houses for failing to pay rent deposits.
Motsi adds that the money his lodgers pay as rent deposit is for damages to the property and rent arrears as most lodgers just leave without notifying the landlords.
Motsi prefers to call the rent deposit a security deposit.
And social commentator, Admore Mazarure, says although the ruling is a positive development for tenants who are being forced to part with a lot of money as non-refundable rent deposit, it is however, very unfair to landlords.
Mazarure says the government should be concerned about the implications of such a jugdgement
While tenants are celebrating over the ruling, landlords say they will come up with other ways of ensuring that tenants are in a position to pay some kind of security deposit.