When a tenant fails to pay the rent, some landlords may resort to locking the tenant out of the residential property.
And while this is not allowed by law, and shouldn't be attempted, it doesn't mean the landlord is powerless in this situation.
It is important for agents and landlords to take action as soon as possible when there is a late payment of rent. This will ensure that the tenant understands the such actions will not be tolerated. In addition the action taken should be in terms of the lease agreement.
Therefore, were the tenant to lapse on a rental payment on the agreed to date in the lease agreement, then communication should be made via phone call or email in order to ascertain the reason for the default.
Within seven days of making communication about the lapse, the agent or landlord should send a letter by registered mail, email or personal delivery to inform the tenant of the breach in the lease agreement.
This should also stipulate that should payment not be made within 20 business days then the lease will be cancelled.
Should the lease then be cancelled or if the tenant doesn’t vacate the property by the specified date, then legal action will need to be taken.
It is important to note that the deposit may not be used in order to cover a rental payment and thus a tenant cannot instruct the landlord or agent to use it for this purpose.
The deposit is used to cover outstanding utilities and damage to the property and shouldn’t be used to cover a lapsed rental payment.
While the legal action process plays out, it is important that the landlord or agent be aware that should they cut off electricity or water, change the locks and not provide the tenant with new keys, seize movable property without a court order, intimidate or otherwise prevent the tenant from entering the property, this would be unlawful and a criminal offence. This is in line with the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999.
Should any disputes or issues arise, the tenant should continue to pay the rent as per the lease agreement.
And it is the responsibility of both parties to fulfill their obligations specified in the lease agreement and in the above mentioned Act.
A tenant should approach the Rental Housing Tribunal in the event of being treated unfairly by their landlord or letting agent. This provision is provided at no charge in order to assist with resolving disputes between both parties.
Ultimately, communication is crucial along with forming a good relationship with your landlord. This serves help when situations arise which could make paying your rent on time important.
Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated - Attorneys Sandton
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