Caution for flat owners with tenants
SECTIONAL title apartments have been the fastest-growing sector in the South African property market, and there are significant cost benefits, convenience and security factors that make them a worthwhile investment and a good place to live.
The danger of this type of high density living, however, says Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, a sectional title management company, is that, one or more occupants can make life unpleasant for fellow occupants.
This is particularly true in complexes where many owners rent out their units, because tenants tend to be less responsible than owners.
“There are two main areas of contention,” says Bauer. “The first is a breach of the conditions of the lease agreement by the tenant. For example, the occupant could overcrowd or sub-let the unit, when this is not allowed. He might also keep a large pet when this has expressly been forbidden.
“The second is a breach of conduct rules: the tenant may enjoy loud music or partying late into the night which, in a high density sectional title scheme, disrupts the lives of those living close to him.”
In any sectional title scheme, says Bauer, the trustees can impose penalties on the owner of the unit whether or not he is the occupant. If his tenant’s behaviour is unacceptable, it is the owner’s responsibility.
The trustees only have a legal relationship with the owner of the unit and are not involved in the legal relationship between landlord and tenant. Trustees cannot approve or reject tenants placed by landlords or rental agents.
Before penalising an owner, the trustees are obliged to send him a warning letter. If this has no effect, they must summon him to a hearing at which he can plead his case.
After that, a fine may be imposed on the owner if, in the opinion of the trustees, there has been a clear breach of the purchase agreement or conduct rules.
If a tenant continues to break rules despite warnings, only the owner of a unit can terminate the lease agreement – once again after giving warnings. If the tenant refuses to vacate, the owners may have to get an eviction order.
The best way to deal with such problems is to take early action. It is advisable to contact the police.
These and similar matters are discussed in IHFM’s weekly newsletter at www.ihfm.co.za. Call Michael Bauer on 083 255 4442.