When your tenant does a duck

Guest expert Mike Spencer, a Bloemfontein-based property valuer, estate agent and sectional title expert with Platinum Global, has some tips for landlords who discover that a tenant has done a runner:

Everyone who has let our property knows the feeling when you find out that your tenant has disappeared. Most time there are signs - unpaid or late paid rental. Some tenants plan to go without paying others just cannot pay.

What to do? Firstly check on any municipal accounts especially water and electricity accounts if these are to be paid by the tenant. If the tenant does not pay - the landlord will have to. Also check with the Body Corporate about their own accounts because your tenant may owe them for services or in some cases for body corporate fines. Don't forget to check the building for any damage that your tenant is responsible for.

Once you know how much is outstanding in total you are in a position to decide how to proceed. If the amounts outstanding are small it may cost more than you will recover. If the amounts are substantial it will be worthwhile proceeding, providing you are reasonably sure that your tenants have assets.

First find out how much deposit is available and deduct this off the outstanding amount. Next have a look at the tenant's application form. You will often find all sorts of helpful information. Previous address, relative's address, work and home telephone numbers etc. These will all help you to find your tenant. If you or your letting agent has access to ITC you would be able to do a check there and this will give you further information.

It is possible to use tracing agents. An attorney can give you the details of one in your area.

Whether you find these tenants or not it is important to have your attorney sue them for the outstanding amounts. If they have vacated your property they are unlikely to defend the case. Once the amount owing has been confirmed by the courts you have 30 years to collect this money if and when you find them in the future. If you don't do this then the amounts lapse within three years.

As Platinum Global has previously said, it is important to know your tenant before you let to them. Do proper credit checks, take full deposits and never allow tenants to pay off deposits as this indicates that they are financially weak. Good credit control at the beginning of each month is important and tenants must understand that if rent is not received by the owner/agent by the first day of the month, not only will there be a late payment penalty in terms of the lease but that legal action will be taken immediately. Mostly as soon as tenants realize that there you are serious about them paying on time they will give you little trouble.

Article from: www.realestateweb.co.za