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EVICTIONS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW In South Africa, the process of evicting a tenant has become highly regulated. On top of the legal ramifications, there’s also the human element to consider in the current economic climate. The best option for avoiding eviction hassles for landlords is to find the right tenant from the start. Property professionals weigh in.

Stringent Vetting: A Necessity, not an Option

“Just Property’s approach to tenant vetting is something we pride ourselves on,” says our CEO, Paul Stevens. “We started as a rental agency in 2001 and are probably South Africa’s oldest and largest. We know how important tenant selection is, and our thorough screening system goes beyond the traditional method of collecting payslips and running credit checks.”

Stevens attributes his group’s low tenant default ratios to robust vetting. “As a landlord, make sure your managing agent’s system is just as thorough,” he advises.

Brian van Wyk, franchisee of Just Property Midrand and Just Property Centurion, echoes this sentiment, emphasising the underestimated role of an agent in tenant vetting and rent collection.

Landlords’ Protection: A Professional Lease, Sound Legal Protocol and Insurance

Every landlord needs an informed understanding of South Africa’s landlord-tenant laws and, once a tenant has been vetted, what goes into a professionally crafted lease, says Stevens. Key legislations governing this space include the Consumer Protection Act, Rental Housing Act, and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Property Act.

The importance of tracking tenant behaviour and managing defaults diligently cannot be overemphasised.

“There are no shortcuts. When a tenant defaults, you need to act. Advise them that they are in breach and discuss possible remedies,” Stevens notes. “20 business days is the standard time given to remedy a breach. After this, the lease may be cancelled, and the property owner can apply to the courts for an eviction order. Only the sheriff of the court may remove a tenant from a property.”

Any hasty steps without the court’s nod can lead to complications, says Stevens. “Keep a meticulous record, understand the Rental Housing Act, and adhere to all legal processes.”
Insurance against defaulting tenants is also a good idea. Just Property offers RENTSECURE at no extra cost on the management fee. This is a rental insurance product that ensures that if your tenant doesn’t pay, the landlord is covered for up to three months’ rent. You will also be covered with up to R50 000 for legal fees in the event of an eviction. No waiting period, no excess. You will receive your rental income regardless of your tenant’s financial situation.

DIY: Don’t Do It.

Stevens warns landlords not to attempt to take matters into their own hands out of desperation or frustration. Resorting to tactics such as lockouts or power cuts is unlawful, and such illegal strategies often worsen the situation. Instead, lean on the experience, established systems, and access to immediate legal counsel that your managing agent can offer to alleviate these complexities.

Landlords who get emotional and attempt DIY evictions only get themselves into trouble. “Misguided actions, such as illegal property entries or accepting partial payments without proper documentation, often backfire.”

Offering a legal perspective, it’s essential to highlight the false economy of landlords trying to sidestep legal channels. In their bid to save on costs, landlords often end up spending more, not just in legal fees but also in the loss of potential rent.

The key lies in immediate action and open negotiation when a tenant defaults. Many people are struggling, but most are not dishonest. In a scenario where someone has lost their job, for example, empathy and flexibility can foster a better landlord-tenant relationship and result in a win-win situation for all.

Is Outsourcing Property Management the Way Forward?

Choosing to manage one’s property or hiring an expert agency is a significant decision. When evaluating a managing agent, Stevens suggests that landlords ensure that the services offered by Just Property are part of the agreement:

● Property marketing, viewings and tenant vetting that includes the due diligence of credit and other checks before tenants can move in.
● Comprehensive contracts and advice regarding the legal obligations of landlords and tenants.
● Proactively managed rental collection and handling of defaults.
● Prompt attendance to maintenance & management issues that saves time and money.
● Clear processes, established routines, standardised documentation, regular feedback, and a high standard of maintenance contractors.
● The option of rental income insurance that covers tenant non-payment, early cancellation, and legal fees, in case of eviction proceedings.

“Just Property offers all this and more to our landlords. We’ve built on our experience of what landlords and tenants need, so make sure your managing agent matches up!” Stevens warns, adding that Just Property’s Ultimate Landlord’s Guide is free to all landlords.

For more information on Just Property, please visit www.just.property or call (087) 004 0149.

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