05 Mar 2012
Landlords in South Africa, as in many countries in which poverty is still the lot of a large proportion of the population, may from time-to-time find themselves facing the awkward situation of tenants allowing too many people to move into their unit on medium- or long-term arrangements.
Although almost all local governments have strict rules governing the maximum number of people that a unit can hold, these are frequently broken, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of Rawson Properties..
He says such rules are difficult to apply to one-off short-term occupancies, as for example when friends from upcountry come to stay for a few days or even a week or two. “What is, however, totally illegal is for tenants to accept excessive numbers over lengthy periods and then, as is often done, to charge rents in return for the space occupied."
Clarke explains that because taking in too many people is such a serious problem, the lease agreements at the outset must specify exactly the number of occupants allowed in the unit - and the tenant should sign his acceptance of this all-important condition.
If a tenant is then subsequently caught accommodating too many people, after warnings have been given, and if matters are not put right, it is often necessary to resort to the drastic, time-consuming and expensive business of eviction.
Clarke says this is the wise course to follow because not only will having too many tenants in a unit almost inevitably result in the premises deteriorating but, if and when municipal officials prosecute for overcrowding - as they are increasingly inclined to do these days - it will be the landlord, not the tenant, who finds himself in the firing line facing the charges.
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