How to handle late rental payments

How to handle late rental payments

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

Late rental payments are just one of the tenant issues that most landlords deal with at some point or another. Even with the most rigorous screening process in place, some unreliable tenants manage to slip through. Once they have moved in, it can be difficult to get rid of them.

Gunston Strandvik Mlambo Attorneys suggest some ways to deal with tenants who refuse to pay their rent.

The law

As a landlord, you need to realise that there are certain laws in place that determine what you can and can’t do in such cases. Before you break down the door, change the locks and demand that the tenants pay their rent, you need to know what action you are entitled to take.

The following procedures can be followed when dealing with bad tenants before taking legal action:

  • Contact the tenants to query the late payment. If the tenants explain that they have a problem and ask for an extension, it’s usually best to work with them to reach an agreement.
  • Suppose the tenants still don’t pay the rental on the agreed later date. In that case, you should send a written breach of contract letter specifying that the tenants have seven days to pay the outstanding amount - unless otherwise stipulated in the lease agreement. The letter should also inform the tenants of your intention to report the payment default to the credit bureaus if the payment is not made. You can do this 20 days after the tenants have received the letter.
  • If the tenants fail to make the payment within seven days of receiving the breach of contract letter, you must ensure that they receive a written notice to cancel the lease agreement. This notice must specify that the tenants must immediately vacate the property.

If the tenants fail to leave the property, you will need to seek legal assistance to proceed with an eviction order.


Dealing with recalcitrant tenants can be frustrating, time-consuming and costly. This is why you need to ensure that your applicant screening process is foolproof.

Ensure that applicants submit a detailed application which includes a copy of identification documents, three to six months' bank statements, proof of employment and references from previous landlords.

Conducting a credit check with the relevant credit bureaus is also essential. If you don't have access to credit bureau information, appointing a rental agent to carry out the screening on your behalf would be worthwhile.

Writer: Sarah-Jane Meyer

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