And the award for the worst landlord goes to…

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Although for the most part, landlords are reasonable, there are some that go to extremes to make their tenant’s live’s hell.

There are always rules, both written and unwritten, that need to be adhered to when renting property. The rent is due by a certain day, loud noise generally won't be tolerated and it's expected that the home be kept in apple pie order. These sorts of requirements are understandable - after all, landlords have to protect their interests in order to safeguard their investment.

Most landlords are reasonable and although they ensure that tenants stick to their end of the bargain as far as the rent is concerned, they also ensure the tenants get what they are paying for by maintaining the property to an acceptable standard. There are however exceptions, and there are landlords who not only overstep the mark as far as rules and regulations go, they trample all over their tenant’s rights in their bid to secure rental payments, regardless of the state of the home.

There are several ludicrous stories doing the rounds. A report on highlights some of the horror stories and the anecdotes these tenants shared were enough to make one’s toes curl.

The landlords with all the rules
One British landlord gave his tenants a list of 31 rules that had to be read and memorised. The rules for living in the communal home included: no eating of pork, restricting the time tenants spent in the kitchen (anyone living in the home was only allowed to stay in the kitchen long enough to eat and clean up after themselves), calling the police if the tenant tucked in to another resident’s food and giving the landlord two weeks’ notice if they wanted to invite someone to spend the night. Those who tried to avoid the kitchen area by eating in their rooms would be charged for an inspection by the landlord, but would also shoulder the expense of the clean-up operation and according to the list, this was not cheap. Anyone caught abusing the facilities or cleaning products would forfeit their deposit.

One would assume that this would have seen most potential renters running for the hills, but sometimes the rules of a property are the least of a tenant’s concerns. Maintenance (or the lack thereof) is a common problem. Leaking roofs, faulty toilets and electrical problems are things that need urgent attention and can become a major bone of contention if the landlord doesn't address the problem in a timely fashion.

The landlord with 684 complaints against him

One group of tenants who lived in three buildings owned by the same landlord had reported the owner to the local housing authority 684 times. Indeed, they were so fed up by the lack of maintenance they created an art show highlighting the squalor in which they were forced to live. The gallery was housed in a nearby property and the exhibit included photos of piles of rubbish, unsafe fire escapes, mouldy walls and a host of other problems.

The landlord who took the doors and windows away
There are rules to be met and rules to be followed regarding evictions, but these little details are sometimes totally ignored by unscrupulous landlords. In one reported case, the landlord removed all the doors and windows and the circuit breaker from a home. The fact that this took place during a New York winter made it impossible for the tenant to remain in the home. The landlord’s decision to strip the property came back to bite and, given the landlord had been reported 38 times to the relevant authorities, this led to a judge taking the decision to confiscate all properties owned by this particular person.

The landlord who demolished the building
A lack of payment isn't the only reason landlords make life difficult for tenants, and in one reported incident the new owners went to extreme lengths to remove the existing tenants from a property. The owners decided to cash in on the booming rental market in San Francisco by investing in a four unit apartment block. Reading between the lines, the tenants had leases in place and were paying their rent, so the landlords had no solid reason to evict. Determined to get them out, the landlords systematically terrorised the tenants by shutting off the power, boarding up windows and entering the various apartments and pouring ammonia over the beds and clothing. Things however got seriously out of hand when they sawed a hole in the floor of one of the flats from below while the tenant was inside and also demolished supporting beams after consulting with an inspector as to which beams would most compromise the stability of the building.

Unfortunately for the landlords their actions eventually led to their arrest and they were sentenced to four years in prison.

There are clear laws governing landlords in South Africa and although the consequences may not be as severe as those in other countries, judges will take a dim view of those who either flout the law or take matters into their own hands.

The Rental Housing Tribunal has resolved many cases and it is highly recommended that they be contacted should a dispute arise.

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