How landlords should deal with subletting

Private Property South Africa

The sub-letting game can be dangerous, but there are three S’s you can follow as a landlord to keep yourself safe.

Sub-letting, be it with permission or illegally, is a trend that residential landlords can’t quite escape – especially as belts get tighter and we feel economic pressure.

“We are seeing more and more illegal sub-letting, particularly in the emerging market space. People who might not have the affordability are seemingly going through a middle man to secure a home to rent,” says Natalie Muller, Head of Rentals at Jawitz Properties in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

“The sub-letting game can be dangerous, but there are three S’s you can follow as a landlord to keep yourself safe.”

1. Suss out the situation

It is very important that a landlord trusts his or her instincts, or gut feel. “Generally, you will get a sense that something has shifted. Remember you are able to notify your tenants that you will be popping in to the premises if you suspect anything has shifted,” says Muller. “You are also perfectly within your rights to check in telephonically with your tenants at any time.”

2. Select an agent to assist

Having a rental agent not only puts a landlord in a better position in terms of dealing with tenants – but if any sub-letting is going on, a managing rental agent will step in and sort things out on a landlord’s behalf. An agent is also able to vet your tenants – they can access data showing if someone is applying for rentals elsewhere, how frequently, etc. A managing rental agent is also entirely involved in the inspection between tenants, which helps to address any maintenance issues, and would also flag whether someone else is living there. “An inspection is done annually even if a tenant stays on for another lease term,” Muller says. It’s important to have all your checks and balances in a row, all the time.

3. Set boundaries if you’re going to do it

If you are wanting to do sub-letting or are open to your tenants doing so – perhaps to secure the rent - it is mandatory that the person who is currently renting your home, and therefore sub-letting, lets you know who the occupants are going to be. Muller says that any criteria, or rules should be shared with all occupants, and it would be wise to get copies of their IDs and personal information. You can also request details of former landlords to acquire references for the sub-letting tenants.

In terms of the Sectional Title Management Act, a landlord must disclose to the body corporate and its managing agents, what the names and ID numbers are of all occupants. “This is a requirement for the security of the building, as well for the serving of information relevant to the block,” Muller says.

Important to remember as well is that any notices that need to be served on the tenant could potentially be served on the occupants too. So, the occupants take on responsibility as the tenants, even if they do not take on liability in for the rent. “The liability still sits with the original tenant,” Muller says.

Tenants beware

Tenants need to realise that in terms of a lease agreement, it is their responsibility to let the relevant people (landlord and managing rental agent, if applicable) know if things are changing in any way at the property.

“Failing to do so is considered illegal and the landlord will be able to take action. A landlord in evicting a tenant, evicts all the occupants at the same time,” Muller concludes.

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