Are landlord’s rights being hijacked along with the property they own?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

If the comments that were made on an article that recently appeared on Private Property’s website are to be believed, leasing out property has become a bit of a nightmare for the average man on the street. Caught off guard, many landlords have been sleeping while Rome burns, unaware of the rights that tenants now enjoy: the problem being that tenants are acutely aware that in many circumstances the ball is firmly in their court and are taking full advantage of the situation.

The balance of power, it seems, has well and truly shifted and although tenant’s rights need to be protected, many feel that the fairly recently introduced Acts have taken this protection a step too far and that the entire process is being abused.

There are large numbers of horror stories out there. One reader in particular seems to be particularly hot under the collar stating; “I have tenants who are slowly demolishing my property! Sold the few items of furniture I left them which I did not need and they did, and converted my lovely garden into a scrap and dumping ground! Then the payment of rent... it’s a case of am I going to get lucky this month or not!”

The argument that landlords have had it too good for so long, may hold some water, but by shifting the goal posts and seemingly giving all the power to tenants, government has opened a totally new can of worms that if left unchecked could have a devastating effect on the buy-to-let market.

One of the major problems that is adding fuel to the fire, according to Marlon Shevelew a senior attorney with Marlon Shevelew and Associates, is that even though there is legislation, a rental tribunal and seminars hosted by various industry experts, it appears that only a handful of buy-to-let investors are fully versed in these laws.

“Regretfully the problems are growing because tenants are educating themselves as to the dilatory process involved in eviction proceedings. They fully understand how to exploit landlords and their agents by raising alleged unfair practices on their part and how to drag out matters regarding rental owing, thus effectively allowing tenants to squat on the premises.” Tenants know what steps a landlord must follow to ensure that they are evicted legally. Coupled with this, are the normal idiosyncrasies of the court process.”

Part of the problem appears to lie directly with the landlords themselves who, faced with an urgent need to pay off a bond, will allow just about anyone to lease the property without first checking that their most valuable asset is in safe, responsible hands. For this reason, it is paramount that anyone considering entering the buy-to-let sector has enough money to cover the costs of the bond if a tenant defaults.

Shevelew notes that it is this factor that is having the biggest impact on this sector of the industry. “Based on my experience, which currently includes 40 residential evictions per month and approximately 80 rental summonses a month, I can safely say that I have noticed a lack of protection by landlords against their most valuable assets which arises in part from a need to take a chance and secure rental in mitigation of their bond repayments. This is exacerbated by a tenant base who, armed with an increased knowledge of the law, have learnt how to play the system and to hijack premises for protracted periods.”

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