Lord Awful

Private Property South Africa
The Roosting Venus

Besides Tupperware drawers and telesales calls, there are few things that get a girl’s nerves twitching as much as a galpal in distress. Except of course rude shop assistants and that’s an essay in itself. Which is worse one wonders, the assistant that snorts while ringing up your food at the W store or the one at the E store that gets you to drive all the way there to collect the shoes she’s keeping for you – only to tell you when you arrive that she doesn’t actually have them. Once would think that store managers would take this kind of sloppy service rather seriously and get back to customers, but that doesn’t happen either, judging by recent experience and ensuing silence.

Talking service, however, thoughts turn back to the galpal in distress, and just what to do about it. Her problem: Lord Awful – the serial-offender landlord who seemed hell-bent on committing as many serial-offences as possible. Not only was he rude, offensive and dishonest in his dealings with her, but when he wound himself up, his face got unpleasantly red and his yellowing teeth, receding gums and foul breath were not for the fainthearted either. There is a law allowing people the right to peaceful enjoyment of a property, and in our view his appearance alone was trespass enough, but when he asked the galpal to step outside so he didn’t have to shout at her in front of her family, things were no longer tolerable.

Time to fight

It was time to fight back, so arming ourselves with coffee and a notebook, we settled down to get our rental ducks in a row. And gosh, we learnt a lot! Yes, the galpal had made a lot of mistakes when she signed up with Lord Awful, and while it was going to take a while to lose him she could at least get to grips with her rights, his wrongs, and establish a check list for next time.

In this country, estate agents by law have to belong to the Estate Agency Affairs Board, and rule number one when looking for property to rent and surveying prospective landlords or managing agents, is to check whether or not they have this credential. (It’s as simple as doing a search on the Board’s website.) If they don’t, move along swiftly, you don’t want to spend the time finding out why.

The rules of engagement

Rule number two is to interview your prospective landlord before you leap, bearing in mind that the fewer answers the prospective Lord Awful can provide you with, the less familiar they are with the property and the less likely they are to be there when you need them. While you are chatting throw in questions about how long the last tenants lived there, whether the agency paints or sprays and who is responsible for what type of repairs. Take the state of the residence very seriously. If it is dirty and uncared for it does point towards a landlord who doesn’t really care – and that could extend to your future requests too.

Rule number three is to have a look at the lease before you sign anything or pay any deposit. And remember a tenant has every right to make changes on a lease too.

With cold coffee and rising exasperation we realized that Lord Awful was, predictably, not registered – and that if galpal had heeded just these three rules, we’d not have been devising the exit plan. There was more to come though, as we would find out …

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