Tenants: beware damaging property and leaving unrepaired

Posted On Saturday, 31 March 2012 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Landlords in South Africa in recent years have sometimes had the impression that the courts, in their endeavour to comply with the constitutional right of citizens to have “access to adequate housing”, have been overly sympathetic to tenants

Tony ClarkeThis impression exists even when tenants have behaved in such a way as to break their lease agreements. TonyClarke, managing director of Rawson Properties. 

However, said Clarke, a recent High Court case has, to an extent, shown that landlords still “have teeth” if and when the tenant is clearly in breach of contract.

In the case to which Clarke was referring (Jacobs and Another vs Upward Spiral, a property owning close corporation), Upward Spiral applied to cancel the Jacobs lease on the grounds that they had damaged the bathroom in the premises of another occupant (who had the landlord’s permission to live there) and had made no effort to repair it, despite requests to do so.

Jacobs defended the cancellation of the lease on the grounds that, prior to their damaging the bathroom, it had already been dysfunctional and emitted foul odours.  They had requested Upward Spiral to remove or renovate it in toto – but they did not pursue the matter. 

When the default judgement with costs was given against the tenants by the magistrate’s court, they applied for a rescinding order – this, too, was not granted by the magistrate.

The Jacobs then appealed to the High Court – but they were again unsuccessful, the High Court ruling that the tenants had not treated the damaged bathroom issue with the urgency it deserved, had been tardy in contacting their attorneys and had not taken the lease documentation seriously.

“There has recently been a big increase in cases against tenants,” said Clarke.  “A recent TPN report has shown that only 68% are now paying on time and instances of damage to properties are rising.  This case will encourage landlords because it reinforces the sanctity of contract, it recognises that tenants have a duty to maintain their premises properly and it gives a clear warning to tenants that to sit back and ignore letters from the landlord will result in their being deemed in breach of contract – even if they can later offer supposedly valid reasons for their slackness.”

Last modified on Monday, 10 March 2014 12:02

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