Renting

5 Steps Landlords Can Take Against Non-Paying Tenants

Story Highlights
  • #1 – Have a conversation with your tenant
  • #2 – Inform tenants of contract breach
  • #3 – Decide whether tenants must be issued with an interdict or a cancellation
  • #4 – Eviction
  • #5 – Issuing the eviction notice

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people, including tenants, in poverty. Many people are unable to pay bills, maintain their lifestyles, and survive.

Along with this, of course, is the failure to pay rent. Landlords are struggling to get their tenants to pay rent on time.

Whilst it is important to be sensitive, it is also important to find a solution to the problem. According to the law, landlords are not permitted to simply evict tenants. Tenants are protected by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, No. 19 of 1998 (PIE Act). 

So, what is a landlord to do?

Here are five steps that can help landlords deal with non-paying tenants. 

#1 – Have a conversation with your tenant

Once the due date for payment has passed, landlords should speak to the tenants before doing anything else.

A friendly reminder might just remind them that their rent is due. It could be a case of pure forgetfulness.

If the tenant is facing financial difficulties, you can decide on a later payment date. Landlords are not required to offer this, but it might be a possible solution.

The important thing is that there is open and clear communication between landlord and tenant. Both parties should understand what the arrangement is following the conversation. 

#2 – Inform tenants of contract breach

If landlords have difficult tenants, they can issue a notice of contract breach.

Landlords have the right to inform non-paying tenants that they have breached the lease agreement. Before doing so, the landlord should ensure that the lease agreement complies with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

This Act states that landlords should give tenants at least 20 business days to rectify their breach. Thus, the lease agreement must be up to date. It should include all the specifics that the landlord and tenant agreed upon.

#3 – Decide whether tenants must be issued with an interdict or a cancellation 

Once the landlord has given notice of the breach, the tenant must rectify it.

If the tenant fails to do so, then the landlord can take further steps. They can either proceed with a summons or immediately cancel the rental agreement.

If the summons has been issued and the tenant still hasn’t paid the outstanding rental amount, the landlord is within his rights to cancel the lease agreement. Ensure that the tenant understands this procedure. 

#4 – Eviction

As soon as the landlord cancels the agreement, the tenant is no longer protected by the PIE Act. They will be regarded as illegal occupants.

According to the PIE Act, the landlord can then evict the tenant legally.

Once the lease has been cancelled, the landlord can begin the summons proceedings as well as the eviction proceedings.

It is recommended that the landlord enlists the help of his attorney. They are qualified in the legalities that are involved in an eviction process. They will also ensure that the landlord’s interests are protected at all times. 

#5 – Issuing the eviction notice

The landlord has to apply for the illegal occupant to the evicted. This application can either be made to the Magistrate’s Court or the High Court.

If the application is approved, it will take between 8-10 weeks for the eviction order to be granted.

It is common practice in South Africa for landlords to give tenants two weeks to find other accommodation before the eviction order is executed. 

Many landlords are facing financial struggles during the pandemic due to late-paying tenants. Luckily, the steps above provide a solution to the problem. However, it is important that landlords follow the rules and don’t take the law into their own hands. 

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