Action against problem tenants

One of the questions put to managing agents by trustees and owners of sectional title property with disturbing frequency, says Michael Bauer, General Manager of IHFM is, “We have a major problem with tenants in our scheme and their general disregard for the rules of the scheme. Can we evict them?”

While it is understandable that owners and trustees who value their homes and the privacy and peace they confer should want to see the last of those who disturb their prevailing lifestyle of the scheme, says Bauer, it is, perhaps regrettably, not within the managing agents’ or the trustees’ power to evict a tenant.

This, says Bauer, can only be done by the landlord, i.e. the owner of the unit. The law makes it clear that the relationship with the tenant is defined by his lease agreement. According to Prescribed Management Rule 69 the owner is responsible for seeing that his tenants and/or any occupants of his unit comply with the rules. He can, however, be advised by the trustees or the agents on how to deal with misconduct rules.

“The normal procedure is first to warn the landlord in writing that his tenant is out of line. If there is no improvement, the trustees are then entitled to impose one or more fines for each breach of conduct rules. Ideally, each misconduct or breach should be recorded and backed up by facts and evidence (photos, case numbers, and affidavits) to ensure the enforceability of a fine in case of legal action.

“Once a landlord finds that the fines are beginning to eat up the rent he is being paid, he will usually take action, again first with a warning and then with an eviction order via the sheriff of the court – but the whole process can be very long,” says Bauer.

If an owner lives in the same scheme as his tenants he may well find it awkward to confront and warn them. He may resort to using a lawyer. However, there is no way he can avoid his responsibility of dealing with a tenant who in one way or another diminishes the property and rental values of the scheme and/or makes other occupants’ lives unpleasant.