The nationwide lockdown has been challenging to say the least! The strict regulations have affected many South Africans financially and the result has been an increase in tenants not being able to make their rental payments on time, or at all.
In many cases this has resulted in defaulted contractual agreements, leaving many landlords questioning the regulations surrounding evictions during lockdown.
During Level 5, evictions were strictly forbidden, while Level 4 allowed for landlords to make court applications for evictions, but halted sheriffs from executing a granted order until provisions were made in the Disaster Management Act. As for evictions during Level 3, the current level, Dlamini-Zuma has stated that:
“We cannot afford to have many more in the streets. To this end, we will continue to prohibit the eviction of tenants during Level 3.
However, given that rental income is also an important livelihood stream for some, we have inserted the possibility for a competent court to grant an eviction order provided it is just and equitable.”
What this means is that an attorney is permitted to prepare an order for eviction, which may be granted during Level 3. However, the order is suspended and cannot be executed until the last day of Level 3.
Landlords need to realise that there are certain laws in place that determine what they can and cannot do when dealing with a tenant who isn’t paying their rent. Here’s a list of procedures that can be followed when dealing with a bad tenant, before seeking legal action.
- Contact the tenant to query the late payment. If the tenant expresses a problem and asks for an extension, our advice is to work with the tenant to reach an agreement.
- If the tenant still does not pay the rental on the agreed upon date, the landlord should send a written breach of contract letter which gives the tenants seven (unless otherwise stipulated in the lease agreement) days to pay the outstanding amount. The letter should also inform the tenant of the landlord’s intention to report the payment default to the credit bureau in the event that the payment is not made. This can be done 20 days after the letter is received by the tenant.
- If the tenant fails to make the payment within seven days of receiving the breach of contract letter, the landlord must ensure that the tenant receives a written notice to cancel the lease agreement. This letter must indicate that the tenant must vacate the property immediately.
- If the tenant fails to leave the property, the landlord will need to seek legal assistance in order to proceed with an eviction order.
If you do find yourself having to deal with a situation like this, feel free to contact us at [email protected] for guidance.