Professional agents can screen tenants properly

Michael Bauer, regarded by many in Cape Town as the city’s most reliable commentator on sectional title matters – his company, IHFM, specialises in this aspect of property management – commented recently that he is still amazed at the informality – ‘sloppiness might be a better word’ – with which landlords’ conclude lease agreements.

“Time and again,” he said, “we are called in to try to put right a situation in which an owner of a unit, or, indeed, of a conventional home on its own plot, has concluded a rental deal with no more backup than a letter setting out the rent and the period of notice. Often they fail to get a deposit or even a month’s advance payment. In one or two cases there has been no written statement at all, just a verbal agreement – then they get into serious difficulties because the tenant is a poor payer and/or damages the property.”

If such landlords use a professional managing agent, said Bauer, there is at least a 90% chance that these problems would not crop up.

“Experienced managing agents,” he said, “know how to conduct credit, background, and landlord checks: they subscribe to agencies which provide this information and they have learned through experience to spot a ‘dicey’, unreliable, fly-by-night tenant.

“Often such landlords will tell you that they regard the agent’s commission as excessive. This is ridiculous in view of the fact that the agent is providing a service for letting, tenant selection, legal documents, rent collection, repairs and maintenance management, and property administration.

“Our experience is that some landlords simply do not know how to go about these matters nor do they have the time to manage their properties. They should, therefore, leave them to those who know how to handle them professionally. DIY landlords often lose months of rent and, when they are finally able to take back their properties, are often faced with expensive repair work caused damages.

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