Pay by the hour tenants

Owners of flats and townhouses in Cape Town now face a new threat, one which has the potential to derail the value of their units, says Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties.

“Apparently respectable applicants approach the landlords and sign on for leases on the understanding that only they and their families will occupy the unit.

“Before long, however, it becomes clear that they have brought in ten to 20 mattresses and are hiring out the space by the hour, their clients being the street vendors, car washers and other informal sector entrepreneurs who operate in many of Cape town’s suburbs and who find it expensive and time consuming to return to their township homes each night. They stay only long enough to get five or six hours sleep, so the tenants’ rental turnover is high and profitable.”

These mini-hotel operators, said Clarke, have flats in a wide range of areas: Sea Point, Green Point, the northern and southern suburbs, and they have often infiltrated affluent upmarket areas.

Rawsons, said Clarke, have on several occasions been asked by other tenants in the buildings concerned how they can counter this practice – which, he says, is illegal because the municipal byelaws limit the ratio of occupants to toilet facilities very strictly and specify that any sub-leases have to be in writing.

“It is usually possible to get an eviction order – but this process usually takes time. There is also a chance that the tenant will lie low for a period and then resume business.”

“I cannot overstress the importance of having a qualified agent involved,” said Clarke. “The vetting process is most crucial in the letting transaction and it needs a qualified, experienced agent to check applicants’ credit, employment and other records.”

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