Experts answer your questions on property matters during the pandemic restrictions
Q: The lockdown restrictions have shown it is possible to buy a property using online technology. How important is it then for me to use an estate agent?
A: While this technology provides a convenient and streamlined process, it does not detract from the value which our estate agents bring to the table, in terms of specialised area knowledge and negotiating skills, in successfully concluding property transactions. – Andrew Golding, Pam Golding Property Group
Q: I have been interested in investing in an Airbnb property for a few years now and am considering taking advantage of the current market conditions to do so. Is this a good idea?
A: Tourism is unlikely to resume any time soon, making Airbnbs something of a white elephant for now. As a result, many Airbnb owners are converting their properties to long-term rentals, competing with those already on the market. We started seeing Airbnbs converting to long-term rentals back in February and a lot more joined the trend when lockdown began, for obvious reasons. – Jacqui Savage, Rawson Property Group
Q: I own a few investment properties and some of my tenants are having financial difficulties. I want to help as much as I can but I cannot give all of them rent breaks or reduced rents. How do I balance being supportive with the fact that I rely on their rent for income?
A: It’s important to differentiate between a good tenant in temporary difficulty and a tenant with no desire or ability to return to good standing. In the case of the former, we’d definitely encourage landlords to consider negotiating some kind of payment plan to retain the tenant, rather than having to start from scratch with an empty property in current circumstances. – Jacqui Savage, Rawson Property Group
Q: I am a landlord and I have tried to negotiate a new rent with my tenant during this time but he still is not able to pay it. I have been informed that I cannot evict him during lockdown and I am concerned as I need his rent for my family’s survival. I understand that everyone is in financial difficulty but, as a landlord, I am too and would rather find a new tenant who can pay the rent. I don’t understand why I cannot replace this tenant.
A: Landlords cannot simply evict their tenants as they’re protected by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE act). The act applies to the occupation of premises which constitute a dwelling which, in the case of a landlord and tenant relationship, would be the residential property. This act was introduced to ensure tenants were protected from being unlawfully evicted from a property and that the correct procedures were followed during the process. Evictions were prohibited under alert levels 5 and 4. At alert level 3, it seems landlords can issue notices for eviction, but cannot enforce them. – Adrian Goslett, Re/Max of Southern Africa
Q: Once lockdown is over and I am permitted to evict my tenants – they were in default even before lockdown – what are the right steps to take?
A: Re/Max of Southern Africa outlines the steps to follow to legally evict tenants:
Step 1: Speak to your tenant If the agreed-upon payment date has come and gone, and you’ve yet to receive payment, contact your tenant immediately to inform them that their payment is overdue. If the tenant is facing financial difficulties, you may agree on a later payment date – however, you’re not obliged to offer this.
Step 2: Provide notice of contract breach If your tenant hasn’t paid their rent, and has no plan to do so, you should send the tenant a notice informing them that they’ve breached the lease agreement. Landlords should ensure the lease agreement is comprehensive and in line with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). According to this act, landlords must provide a notice of at least 20 business days to their tenant to allow them to rectify the breach.
Step 3: Decide between an interdict and a cancellation Should the tenants fail to rectify the breach within the given time frame, the landlord has two options – proceed with a summons or immediately cancel the agreement. If, after the summons is issued, the tenant has still not made any attempt to pay, you are within your rights to cancel the lease agreement. If the agreement is cancelled, the tenant will no longer fall under the protection of the PIE act and will be regarded as an illegal occupier. According to the PIE act, the landlord will then be able to evict their tenant legally. Once the lease is cancelled, you can initiate the summons proceedings and the eviction proceedings simultaneously. Landlords should contact their attorney to begin the eviction process.
Step 4: Eviction notice The application to evict an illegal occupier must be made to either a magistrate’s court or the high court. If the application is unopposed, it can take eight to 10 weeks for the eviction order to be granted. Also, it is common practice in South Africa to provide the tenant with at least another 14 days to find new accommodation before the eviction order is executed.
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