Advice and Opinion

Permission may be required to short term let your unit


With the advent of online rental portals making it easy for landlords to manage and advertise their properties without the need of a letting agent, in recent years there have been many investors in properties choosing to rent their units out as short terms lets in the areas that have a high influx of tourists.  What they might not have checked though is whether they are legally allowed to do so, says Michael Bauer, managing director of property company

A recent news report has highlighted the need for those who rent their units out as holiday accommodation in Cape Town to check the zoning of their property and to apply for permission from the City of Cape Town’s Development Management Department.

The City’s Development Management Scheme permits B&Bs to be run without any special permits from General Residential (GR) zoned properties where there is a house (and perhaps attached cottage), subject to compliance with conditions.

“In a large percentage of cases, though, the unit being let would be an apartment – which is actually not allowed, according to the City’s Municipal Planning By-law (MPBL) together with its policies and frameworks. Owners of units in apartment blocks could convert sections to holiday accommodation and allow short term tenants to occupy their units, but they have to apply for permission to the City of Cape Town to do so.  However, even if the City does grant permission, it does not necessarily mean that the body corporate has to or will consent”, said Bauer.

Short term letting in sectional title schemes is generally not welcomed by many – trustees and residents alike, said Bauer. Short term letting leaves many schemes vulnerable in terms of security, with the high turnover of occupants – who, it is assumed, might not look after keys or remote controls for the complex as well as the owners would, which poses a security risk.

“Another aspect of short term letting that causes friction among residents is that holidaymakers tend to be in a relaxed state of mind and sometimes could create more noise than they realised, therefore disrupting the quiet environment other occupants have worked hard to maintain in their complexes”, he said.

Many sectional title schemes have banned short term letting and have written this into their conduct rules, so those who are renting out sectional title units as short term lets would have to check the rules of their schemes as well as apply for consent from the City.

Those who are already renting their units out as holiday accommodation might be tempted to just continue as is, but, said Bauer, be warned, as the City has implemented processes for the public to lodge formal complaints and the City will institute legal action against those in contravention of the law.