Landlords: Keep Your Finger On The Pulse

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

A lease agreement that covers every eventuality is imperative when letting out a sectional title unit. While homeowners in a sectional title scheme are more than aware of their responsibilities to the body corporate, tenants may have a different take on the situation and therefore be more likely to flout the rules.

Every sectional title scheme has rules and there are penalties for those who choose to ignore the law. But what happens when the rules are being broken by someone who is renting a unit and what are the repercussions for the owner?

Prescribed Management Rule 69 states that “The provisions of these rules and of the conduct rules, and the duties of the owner in relation to the use and occupation of sections and common property shall be binding on the owner of any section and any lessee or other occupant of any section, and it shall be the duty of the owner to ensure compliance with the rules by his lessee or occupant, including employees, guests and any member of his family, his lessee or his occupant.”

The owner is responsible for his personal behaviour and that of his family and visitors and if he has a tenant, their behaviour and their visitors’ too, says Michael Bauer, managing director of the estate agency, IHPC. Every tenant who rents a property in a sectional title scheme should automatically be furnished with a list of the rules before he moves into a complex. However, merely providing the tenant with the rules may not be enough and landlords are urged to take extra precautions if they want to avoid being fined. It is recommended that the landlord have a clause in the lease document which transfers responsibility to his tenant so that the landlord is not held liable if any fines for misbehaviour are issued by the body corporate, he says.

There will sometimes be cases where damage is done to property, i.e. a gate or boom might be damaged by a visitor's vehicle and if the guest register signed at the gate can show from which unit the vehicle came, that person will be held liable for the cost of repairs. This shows how important it is to have a clause in the lease which transfers responsibility to the tenant because the damage could amount to thousands of rands and the landlord would be responsible for the bill if he is not covered by his lease agreement. It's not the only precaution that landlords should take and it is also recommended that close tabs are kept on who is actually staying in the unit.

Occupation numbers in units are often restricted, but if the lease does not specify who exactly will live in the house, the system is left open to abuse, points out Bauer. Tenants have been found renting out rooms by the hour or sub-letting rooms. In theory they are sticking to the lease agreement because only the stipulated number of occupants are resident at any given time. This situation can easily be avoided by identifying the legitimate tenants by name and age in the lease agreement.

"In IHPC’s experience this has proven to be of extreme importance because if it is found that the occupants are not the people listed in the lease, the agreement can then be terminated immediately as a breach of the lease," adds Bauer. “A good letting agent will make sure that his client, the landlord, will be covered in the best way possible against loss or damage in the lease agreement and take as many steps as he can to prevent inappropriate behaviour by tenants.”

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