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Private Property South Africa
The Roosting Venus

There’s something comforting about the communal nature of a salon – the buzz of driers, the gush of warm water and the smell of potions – that seems to get tongues wagging in next to no time. Much like an ancient gaggle of women doing the washing around a common water-source some things just don’t change: people laugh, people lament, advice is doled out in heaps and in the end, people generally leave feeling a whole lot better.

We were back at our salon of course and the neighbours’ non-paying tenants were again the topic of the day. The financial times had taken its toll on the tenants (and on the neighbours) and after patience, legal advice, notice and negotiations, the process of evicting the tenants was well underway. And while that too, was taking its toll, the end was at least in sight.

There is of course little use in crying over a bad blow-wave and, with everyone throwing in their own bad tenant story into the mix, it seemed the way forward, as the neighbours would soon be able to put their property back onto the rental market, was to plan how to get it right second time around.

Check it out

A thorough check of would-be tenants was top of our list, with credit, workplace and character checks being vital. It’s amazing just how much one can find out with a question or two, and we all agreed that our properties were worth the protection.

As well as this, it was vital to have a watertight contract – and for that it’s clear that professional help is essential. But after that, what about other unexpected expenses and pitfalls that come hand in hand with being a landlord?

What about liability for example? How liable is a landlord for a tenant’s misfortune? The answer in terms of the Consumer Protection Act is that if a tenant suffers any loss as a direct result of a landlord’s negligence to maintain a property, the landlord is liable. While good and proper maintenance is a no-brainer, getting insured again unexpected mishaps is also an option.

Then there are all those unexpected expenses that all property owners prefer not to think about: the geyser that bursts, the rising damp, the leaking loo, the exhausted aircon. While a tenant’s rent is hopefully covering bond repayments and a bit, we decided the wise landlord should put a bit away each month to deal with those demons.

Time for DIY?

And time management? When is it more profitable to call someone in instead if doing it yourself? The question extends from the quick fixes like changing a light fitting or painting a wall, to managing the entire rental process. The answer in every case is different, but it’s worth bearing in mind that often handing the whole operation to a letting agent can cost the landlord less than going DIY.

And then there are wants and needs. Is it better to ask a higher rent and make more profit at the risk of losing a tenant, or keep a good tenant with a lower rental and smaller increases? We chose the latter – regular money being better than minding the gap. But that was us.

The neighbours too looked set to start over again, their prep better done this time around.

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