Property trouble: When a tenant runs a business behind your back
Property law expert Brett Nicholson, of Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys, says when letting a property it is vitally important to be in control of exactly what your tenant can and cannot do, particularly with regard to running a business from the property.

The problems that can arise for a landlord with premises that are being used as a business site are endless.

To name but a few, there is the destruction and potential damage to your property, there is the possibility of accidents happening which may then result in labour law issues, as well as theft and many unauthorised and potentially undesirable visitors to your premises.

There is also the nuisance this may cause the neighbours and then as the owner you may be subjected to angry neighbours and complaints of noise or other unwanted activities. With these sorts of problems in mind it is much better to avoid these potential pitfalls and ensure from the outset that provision is made within the lease agreement that such activities are prohibited.

Landlords should first and foremost check through the lease agreement and make sure that there is a clause that provides that the premises may only be used for "private residential purposes only" and "no other purpose" whatsoever.

It would be prudent to include in such a clause that no business of any sort whatsoever may be carried out from the leased property without the prior written consent of the owner thereof.

Provided your lease includes a clause of this nature, then as the landlord you would be able to, in terms of the breach clause, cancel the agreement by written notice to the tenant on the grounds that the property is being used for activities that are specifically excluded from being conducted on the premises unless with prior consent.

Landlords should also check the Title Deeds for their rental properties carefully for any restrictive conditions within the Title Deed of the property which relate to the use of the property and, if deemed necessary, include reference to this clause in the lease agreement.

If a landlord is faced with such a problem at present, the best response is to go back and check the lease agreement carefully. If the running of a business is prohibited or it is specified that it may only be used as a residential property, provide written notice to the tenant that should such activities not cease immediately you will proceed to cancel the agreement. Alternatively cancel the agreement immediately if there is provision for this and notify the Tenant accordingly in writing.

However, if you are in the process of letting your property ensure that the relevant clauses are included in your lease and thereby protecting your investment and your property accordingly.

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