Curb “bad tenant” behaviour

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

As property investment is on the rise again after a long dip in the market, investors should be aware that, once they take the plunge, they are exposed to certain dangers.

Investing in a sectional title scheme is a lucrative business, but ensuring that you do not place a “bad tenant” in your unit can mean the difference between long legal battles and property bliss.

These days, exceptional care has to be taken to check a prospective tenant’s general creditworthiness, his previous track record as a rent payer and his record as a person who does or does not take care of the property that he occupies.

Landlords should put risk mitigation strategies in place for thorough screening of tenants, water-tight lease agreements and taking swift action in the case of late payments or defaults.

Landlords who act quickly to limit non payment of rent by following their lease agreement breach clause process, are able to demand rent, cancel the lease and demand that the tenant vacate the property at month-end. In most cases, tenants who are in arrears by only one month are more likely to vacate the premise than tenants who have been allowed to fall a couple of months behind.

The problem with a large number of landlords and agencies is that they give tenants too much time to remedy their contract breaches and this results in squatting tenants. Landlords should be decisive to mitigate their risks, and should harness resources, the expertise of letting agents and the protection of rental insurance to cover all their bases. The best solution is to have a professional management company take care of the property, its tenants and their monthly rent amounts.

However, it is also the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the tenant lives in a property that is well taken care of. If not maintained, facilities like garage doors, swimming pools, Jacuzzis and even kitchen appliances can become unusable. Poor maintenance can also result in trees and shrubs growing to the point where they damage walls and windows, and block out light.

Property agents regularly come across landlords who refuse to pay for essential maintenance and repair tasks – but beware, as this could lead to frustrated tenants who protest by not paying their rent.

Written in association with Tony Clarke, Rawson Properties, Wandri Loubser, Tenrisk, and Michelle Dickens, TPN

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