Tuesday | 31 March | 2020
By Reon Janse van Rensburg
Many tenants in South Africa gave their landlords a month’s notice at the beginning of March and were planning to move to a new house, townhouse or apartment the last weekend in March. Under normal circumstances this is a fairly normal procedure to follow, except for the hard work to pack and unpack all your household goods.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has ruined many people’s plans and a lot of uncertainty followed. The lockdown creates extraordinary circumstances and a lot of uncertainty because normal procedures and regulations do not necessarily apply at this stage anymore.
In an interview BusinessTech had with Andrew Schaefer, Managing Director of the national property management firm, Trafalgar, he said that South Africa’s state of disaster’s regulations, prohibits South Africans to move from one to another during the lockdown.
Thus, all the tenants who wanted to move at the end of March, would now at least have to wait until after the nationwide lockdown, that ends at midnight on 16 April.
According to Schaefer landlords must offer a month’s extension on their lease, so that they can remain in one place during the lockdown. Tenants would also have to pay this month’s rent.
Schaefer further said: “ [Tenants] will also not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until they can take occupation because these circumstances are beyond their control, and the landlord/agent will not be able to let the property to someone else during lockdown, even if it is empty.
Schaefer said that people who plan to give notice on 1 April and plan to evacuate their current home’s best option is to talk to their landlord or agent and talk about extending the lease even if only for one month.
Schaefer also says that landlords need to secure themselves with options available to them in the event that tenants lose their income because of the restriction or economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If they are quality tenants who have previously always paid their rent in full and on time, we would suggest that they be asked to sign a waiver to the effect that their deposit may be used as rent for a certain time instead of it having to be held in trust.”
Schaefer suggests that this agreement be drawn up by a professional rental agent and that the agreement contains a provision that stipulates the deposit to be reinstated on a certain date, perhaps in instalments, and for the amount to be repaid by a certain date. The landlord can then take legal action if the tenant fails to comply with the arrangement or agreement.
Alternatively, Schaefer also suggests that landlords may decide to give quality tenants a “payment holiday” during the restriction or even for the next few month, especially if we see banks doing the same by instalments on properties etc.
However, Schaefer warns landlords to be careful and to ensure that written agreements between landlords and tenants are put in place so that in certain circumstances, they can withdraw the concession so that unpaid rent can be reinstated before the end of the lease and consequently legal action can be taken if the tenant does not adhere to the agreement.
In the case where tenants have already been notified to vacate the home because they are in arears, Schaefer believes that landlords are obliged to allow tenants until the end of the lockdown before they must vacate the home.
However, as soon as the lockdown is lifted, it will be necessary to continue with the necessary legal action.
Given the abnormal circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, parties are encouraged to act with the necessary humanity and if possible, it is encouraged that people assist and help each other during this period. A helping hand counts in your favour and encourage others to do the same. In times of crisis we are each other’s helping hands.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.