01 Apr Landlord vs Tenant
Tenants and Landlords alike have been thrown into disarray with the announcement of the National Lockdown last week, meaning those who had to move by month-end, meaning 31st of March, ie. yesterday, were uncertain whether or not they had to move or stay put.
With social media platforms inundated with “fake-news”, it’s important to be cognizant of what are actual facts and what are indeed not.
With regards to the relationship between landlord and tenant, both parties’ rights in terms of their agreement need to be upheld, even during lockdown.
Here are a few myths debunked:
Myth: A landlord could have forced a tenant to move before lockdown.
Truth: If a rental agreement has terminated and the parties had agreed that the tenant would have vacated the property by month-end, the tenant had the right to vacate the property before midnight on Thursday 26 March. A landlord could not have forced this.
Myth: Those who have been given notice to vacate or have given notice to vacate by 1 April could remain in property and the tenant could automatically stay another month without paying rent, due to the lockdown.
Truth: The parties may have agreed that the tenant could extend his lease with another calendar month, due to the national lockdown, however tenants are warned that this places an obligation on them for the due payment of rental for that extended month.
Myth: If a tenant remained in the property he was in prior to lockdown and could not move into his new property where a lease agreement was entered into, he remains liable for both properties’ rental.
Truth: The tenant will not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until he can take occupation of that property due to these circumstances being beyond his control. That new landlord will also not be allowed to let that property to another party during the lockdown period, even if the property is empty. Although the landlord in these cases might lose a month’s rental income, it is of no fault of the tenant and a result, the landlord may not claim rental if the property was not occupied before lockdown.
Myth: If a tenant was given notice to vacate the property by month end, due to him having defaulted in paying his rent, landlords may have forced him to vacate the property before lockdown.
Truth: If the tenant was unable to move before lockdown, the landlord would be obliged to let that tenant remain in the property until the lockdown terminates. However, should that tenant remain in default, the landlord may continue reporting this to the credit bureaux and following correct legal procedures to start the eviction process once the lockdown terminates.
Myth: If the tenant is in default of paying rent, a letter of demand cannot be sent to him during lockdown, as the 20 business days for rectifying the breach in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, is not applicable during lockdown.
Truth: All tenants must still pay their rent and if they default then a letter of demand can still be sent per email to give them 20 business days as normal to rectify the breach. And if they fail to remedy the breach, the lease can be cancelled. Therefore, with reference to lease agreements, “business days” are not suspended.
Myth: Lastly, should a tenant who ought to have vacated the property by the 31st of March, vacated the property before the lockdown, and no monies were due by the tenant, the landlord may withhold repaying him the deposit within 7 business days, due to the lockdown.
Truth: The Rental Housing Act provides that should there be no amounts owing by the tenant to the landlord either for monies owing and unpaid in terms of the lease agreement, the landlord shall pay the full amount of the deposit plus any interest thereon to the tenant no later than seven days after the termination date, not including weekends or public holidays.
Article by Alet Smit