Advice and Opinion

In sectional title developments, 'undesirable' tenants are the landlord's responsibility

It is likely that in multi-unit sectional title developments there will always be one or two residents who are thought by most of the others to be ‘undesirable’ and when this happens the body corporate is frequently called in by its members to take action.

In these cases, however, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, the body corporate does not have complete power because in many ‘undesirable’ tenant cases the culprit is a tenant renting from a landlord – and in South African law if the body corporate wants to take serious action, e.g. to impose a fine, against such people they have to work through the owner of the unit, the landlord, who will be held entirely responsible for the problem.

Where simple house rules are broken the body corporate or the managing agent , says Clarke, may on occasion be able to deal directly with the troublemaker, but the power to make changes remains vested with the landlord – and, Clarke reminds us, he is entitled to lease to whoever he chooses provided that that tenant conforms to the house rules.

Sometimes, says Clarke, it will be discovered that the occupant has a criminal record or is found to have taken part in illegal activities of one kind or another.

Even in these instances, however, the body corporate is not in a position to demand the tenant’s removal unless again he flouts the house rules of a development, e.g. by overcrowding or by holding rowdy parties. Even in these situations the body corporate has to work through the landlord. This being the case, says Clarke, it becomes vitally important that landlords make use of responsible rental agents. Such people today have access to very efficient IT based checking systems, which will almost always be able to reveal any non-performance on the part of the proposed tenant as an employee, as a tenant elsewhere or as a credit payer.

Furthermore in an efficient rental agency, says Clarke, this type of research will also reveal if the proposed tenant has a criminal record. Those body corporates of sectional title schemes anxious to avoid ‘undesirable’ tenants should, he says, seriously consider identifying and dealing with one of the better rental agencies who have access to the very useful checking mechanisms which once applied have proved so effective in ensuring that the quality and reliability of the tenants in many schemes is impressive.