Avoid Becoming a Statistic

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

When we think about buildings being hijacked, we tend to think that this only happens in the older high rise properties in downtown Johannesburg. While it is true that large numbers of properties have been taken over by squatters in the City of Gold, they are not the only buildings targeted by those who use every trick in the book to avoid paying rent.

In a recent article in The Star, it was reported that a seller of a high-end property situated on a top golf estate in Johannesburg sold the property to a couple who stated that they didn't need to secure a bond as they would pay cash for the home. It was agreed that a R1-million deposit would be paid up front, on condition that the buyers could take immediate occupation. It was agreed that the buyer would pay occupational rent until the sale of the R5.5-million home was concluded. The money for the deposit never materialised and the owner received only R80 000 before the fun and games began.

The transfer never went through and the buyer didn't bother to pay occupational rent. The owner, who by this stage was battling to keep up with the monthly bond repayments, gave the 'buyer' notice to vacate the premises. The 'buyer' offered no resistance, but did state that they had some furniture stored in the garage and would return to retrieve the goods. The owner had his own furniture delivered to the home and one can only assume that although he was out of pocket, he believed that the situation was now under control.

However, he was wrong and 24 hours later was ordered to appear in the High Court for an urgent eviction application. It was ruled that the owner had forcibly evicted the 'buyer' and the owner was ordered to vacate the home and hand the keys to the ‘buyer’.

It has long been felt that tenants have more rights than do the legal owners of a property and on the face of it, this case clearly highlights just how the system can be played. The owner drives past the house on a daily basis and reports that the 'buyer' doesn't appear to be staying in the home. In the meantime, the owner and his wife have been forced to stay with friends.

There is little doubt that this issue will eventually be resolved, but the legal costs involved will be high. The owner in this instance said that the R80 000 deposit he had received had already been spent on legal costs.

Sellers should be aware that this is not an isolated case and that there are people who will use the system to their advantage in order to avoid paying rent. And the bad news...the chances of them preying on middle class homeowners is growing.

Whether or not such an individual indicates he wants to buy a house or merely wants to rent the property, once he has moved in, it becomes an expensive, emotional exercise to get him out. There are however ways to prevent becoming a statistic.

Don't allow anyone to move into your home without paying a deposit. When selling a home, be wary of those who want to take immediate occupation.

When renting out a property, interview the tenant. Ask them how long they resided at their previous address and the reason for the move. It may prove helpful to phone the previous landlord for a reference. However, be aware that a landlord who wishes to remove a bad tenant may paint a rosy picture just because he wants them out. Ask to see and make a copy of their identity document.

Conduct thorough credit checks on tenants before allowing them to take occupation. Be aware that unsavoury tenants will often choose to rent a property privately, knowing that private landlords are less likely to conduct credit checks. Nothing is a done deal until the money is in the bank and it is also highly advisable to run a credit check on buyers who wish to take early occupation.

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