Advice and Opinion

When love goes out of the door, so, all too often, does the landlord's rent

The less strict attitudes to pre-marital alliances adopted by many South Africans today are reflected in the leases that property rental agencies are now signing, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group. In the major urban areas close to 25% of signatories to leases, it has been estimated, are for one or more couples who are not yet married – and who may have no intention of ever legalizing their alliances.

Quite often, said Rawson, the couples may agree to live in the same premises purely for convenience sake, but many are already in a more intimate relationship to which, at the time of the signing the lease, they appear to be wholly committed. Regrettably, he said, all too often these un-legalised bonds are very far from being permanent: within a few months the couple may have decided to split and these splits can be so inconvenient or even traumatic that one of the pair decides to leave.

This, said Rawson, can and does present landlords with a real headache because the remaining tenant is quite likely to be unprepared or unable to make up the resulting shortfall in the rent – and it is surprising, he added, just how frequently landlords find themselves facing this predicament today.

“In our experience the owner and his rental agent will then for three or four months find they are being paid less than the agreed rental. This, of course, can be a blow to those who are paying off a big bond on the property or who rely on the rental to supplement incomes that may already be inadequate.”

When signing on young couples, said Rawson, some agents insist that only one person signs the lease and takes on the full responsibility for the rental payment and the maintenance of the unit. Even this precaution, he warned, is by no means fool proof because the signatory quite often is unable to meet the obligations.

Another precaution which many rental agents take when leasing to the younger set, said Rawson, is to insist that the lease is done in the name of a parent – or that the parent signs a guarantee to meet any shortfalls in the payments.

The usual credit employment check-up procedures adopted by rental agents on prospective tenants, added Rawson, cannot be applied to many young people, particularly students, because they have as yet never been employed for long periods nor do they have significant credit accounts. This can severely complicate the agent’s ability to assess their credit worthiness.

Despite these difficulties, however, said Rawson, leasing to younger people, especially university students, has in most of the major urban centres proved to be a profitable investment, one which is especially attractive to buy-to-let purchasers.

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