Landlords need to be aware of tenants' rights

When a property in which there is a tenant is sold to a new owner, it has always to be recognised that in the Roman-Dutch law on which SA’s laws are based, “Huur gaat voor koop” – the rights of a tenant with an existing lease outweigh those of the new owner..

Pointing this out recently, Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, the property management company, said that, as many South Africans are investing in property as a sideline to their main business or income stream, he fairly regularly comes across cases where the property investor is in fact are not aware of the law.

“Then,” says Bauer, “they find to their dismay that they cannot just “get rid of” a tenant and that in SA law tenants’ rights are sacrosanct.”

If the tenant is in his first twelve months occupation it is almost certain that the landlord will have to allow him to stay on until that period expires the landlord is able by mutual agreement to negotiate terms of cancellation.

If he has been in the property over a year, most lease agreements will stipulate that at least two months notice has to be given and if the landlord and tenant cannot together find suitable alternative accommodation in the same area, at the same price, notice may well have to be extended.

In certain cases, e.g. where a major upgrade or redevelopment of the premises are planned it can be worth the landlord’s right to pay the tenant out, i.e. to compensate him for several “lost” months accommodation, says Bauer.

“The lesson to be learned from all this is that when a person invests in property he must make sure he has conducted a due diligence exercise before making the investment decision. If he wishes to take over a vacant property on transfer, he must stipulate this condition in the offer to purchase and ensure that the seller accepts it.”

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