Lockdown: how to deal with rent and levies

Lockdown: how to deal with rent and levies

MAIN IMAGE: Marlon Shevelew, director Marlon Shevelew and Associates.

By Marlon Shevelew

Many people will not be able to earn an income during the nationwide lockdown from midnight 26 March till midnight 16 April. What are landlords who are unable to pay their levies to do? Is there any reprieve for tenants who are unable to pay their rental? Has our government done enough to offer reprieve?

The first critical question to ask is whether the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies before the law as a force majeure or in Latin a vis major event. The same would apply for the nationwide 21-day lockdown.

What is vis major?

Vis major (otherwise referred to as an ‘act of God’) is a legal term that refers to a superior power or force which cannot be resisted or controlled. A related legal term is casus fortuitus which means an exceptional or extraordinary occurrence which is not reasonably foreseeable. In order to qualify as either vis major or casus fortuitus an event must be uncontrollable and unforeseen. Such events can result in complete or partial release from obligations.

COVID-19 and the lockdown qualify as vis major events

The general consensus is that COVID-19 is an event which satisfies the above criteria. There have been instances of manufacturing companies declaring force majeure as a reason why they are unable to comply with their obligations, and online booking platforms refunding clients who are unable to make use of bookings made. Both of these classes of reactions are indicative thereof that COVID-19 qualifies as vis major.

The 21 day lockdown announced on 23 March operates as vis major as well.

Landlord’s position

Where a landlord is faced with a tenant who closes up shop and/or refuses to pay full rental, his/her response must be informed by an assessment of the loss of beneficial occupation which the tenant has experienced, which will be discussed below. In light of the lockdown, a landlord will likely not be entitled to compel tenants to pay full rental if the lockdown has forced those tenants to close up shop.

A landlord will not be able to lawfully refuse to pay levies because of COVID-19; there is no way that COVID-19 impacts on ownership in a manner that will release the landlord from these obligations. A landlord will also not be entitled to pay reduced levies or mortgage payments because his tenants are unable to pay him, or because he is unable to earn an income himself (even in the light of the lockdown).

Some banks are offering relief programs for property owners and those should be seriously considered by any landlord that is struggling to meet its obligations. These are a concession from the banks and not necessarily an entitlement of landlords.

Further reading: New coronavirus banking rules will allow for payment holidays and other measures

Tenants’ position

The effect of COVID-19 on tenants must be determined along the same lines as above. If there is a direct effect on the beneficial occupation which the tenant has paid for, then the tenant will be entitled to a remission of rental. If the effect is merely indirect, then the tenant will not be entitled to remission of rental.

A tenant who cannot pay his rental because he has not received an income is not entitled to refuse to pay rental. Although the loss in income was ultimately caused by COVID-19, the effect is not related directly enough to release the tenant from paying rental. Otherwise any person who is ever retrenched would be able to refuse to pay rental. That can never be the case.

It is only if the person’s beneficial use of the property is directly affected by force majeure that said person will be entitled to remission of rental. In the example of a self-employed person who cannot earn an income, the effect is indirect, and therefore that person will not be released from fulfilling the obligations in terms of the lease.

A commercial tenant, who cannot use a property for the purpose which it was let will be entitled to remission of rental for the period of the lockdown.

Effect of the disaster regulations

The nationwide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The regulations published under this Act also impact on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants.

Commercial tenants who are now forced to curtail their trading hours experience a direct impact on the beneficial use and enjoyment of the property. Such a tenant should be entitled to pay a reduced rental. If, however, the tenant merely is struggling because business in general is scarce, but has not been impacted directly, then the landlord will be justified in refusing to accept a reduced rental.

This will be the situation before the lockdown, and will be the situation once the lockdown comes to an end.

Effect of the lockdown

The lockdown which was announced will have the effect that many obligations cannot be complied with, for example:

  • A tenant will not be able to vacate property during the lockdown.
  • Landlords will not be able to give occupation to tenants during the lockdown.
  • Estate agents will also not be able to attend to incoming and outgoing inspections.

The scope of the lockdown is unclear at this stage, and the Presidency has yet to publish the extensive list of exceptions to the “stay at home” rule announced. Until this has been published, it must be assumed that everything which is not an essential service will have to stop. In light of the strict sanctions a conservative approach should be taken when deciding whether or not any activity is excepted from the lockdown.

Conclusion

COVID-19 is a vis major event. Its effect must be evaluated on a case by case basis. If the effect is direct and immediate, then a party will likely be entitled to some reprieve from its obligations. If not, that person will not be entitled to be released from complying with his obligations. The lockdown will drastically increase the number of situations directly affected by COVID-19.

The steps taken by the South African government will have a serious impact on the obligations between landlords and tenants, which both landlords and tenants must be mindful of.

About the author: Marlon Shevelew is the director of law firm Marlon Shevelew and Associates Inc. Shevelew is a well-known expert authority on residential property law in South Africa.

Showing 98 comments
  • Anna Broekhuizen
    Reply

    Thank you for the informative article.

    Please advise: my landlord has requested I release 1 month of the double damage deposit I am holding in the Trust Account. Tenant does not want me to pay April rent only the services as he does not know when his next pay check will be.
    Do I need permission from the tenant to release the 1 month deposit?

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      A real dilemma – excellent question. Thank you Anna, I’ll follow up on this for next week’s issue of Property Professional.

      • Helene Meissenheimer
        Reply

        Hi Anna, Riëtte Bornman, Attorney, Notary Public and Conveyancer at STBB responds as follows (comments condensed, full comments next week in Property Professional): Taking current legislation and typical contractual clauses into account, in terms of the Landlord and the Tenant, the deposit cannot be released during the period of the lease agreement. The rental agent, can furthermore, under no circumstances, pay the deposit out to the Landlord, as this will be a breach of the agent’s fiduciary duties in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
        The Rental Agent is encouraged to scrutinise the terms of the Lease Agreement and to facilitate mediation between the parties, during these trying times where performance can become difficult. If the matter is dealt with in accordance with the terms of the Agreement and the parties remain in dispute, they are to be advised to refer the matter to the Rental Housing Tribunal once they are in a position to do so after the lockdown.

        • Elize
          Reply

          Good afternoon.
          Question on behalf of my mother.
          My mother is a pensioner, but she also has 2 properties that my father left her when he passed away. As you know, the government pension is not even R2000. She relies on the 2 properties to pay for levies as well as to pay for her medical aid, food etc.
          As landlady, what are her rights and obligations with regards to the rent from her tennants? Both properties are houses and not for business use

          • Helene Meissenheimer

            Hi Elize, as Marlon explained, her residential tenants would ito the law be obliged to pay their April rent as they are enjoying the benefit of their rental properties by living there. However, if they approach her to ask for some form of reprieve because of lack of income due to the lockdown, it is up to her discretion on how to handle the situation. These are difficult times for many people.

        • Zarina Kajee
          Reply

          Hi,
          My name is Zarina. I am the owner of a bachelor flat. I have given my tenant a 50% reduction in the rent for 3 months since she cannot earn due to restrictions. She has also agreed to using her deposit for 2 months to pay that reduced rent.
          However, what I can’t accept is that the property management company is adamant that full levies must be paid and if not, then a penalty will be added to the account.
          Surely some measure of empathy must prevail.
          I am not able to earn and my husband has just been retrenched, so as a landlord, even I have these issues.
          How should I approach their heartless statement? Think about it this way- If the President and members of exec are taking a third cut in salary, why can they not bend a little, at least 20% off?
          Please help.

      • Elsa
        Reply

        Can you maybe help clear up the issue that parents with children in universities will face? Many have signed lease agreements for private student accommodations where students are no longer in the accommodation as they were told to pack up and return home.

        • Helene Meissenheimer
          Reply

          Hi Elsa, yes I’ve asked Marlon Shevelew to comment on this as well as the other major issues raised here about rent and levies.

          • Varsha

            Hi. Due to lockdown I was not working in April, but managed to pay my April rent with mar h salary.However in May we started work but was not able to pay May. I asked the landlord for extention to pay, however he issued me with a breach of agreement letter and 7 days to rectify and in the same letter he gave notification of intention to evict. He refuses to understand and was insulting

          • AJ

            Hi
            Regarding a student canceling a lease agreement for private student accomodation, as mentioned in comments above the Landlord will be able to claim a fair penalty. Is keeping an entire deposit (equal to two months rent) and has been accruing interest for the past 5 years seen as fair?

        • Lira
          Reply

          I have the same question as well!

        • Nadia
          Reply

          Has Marlon replied to the student accommodation question by Elsa dated 30 March as I would like to know the outcome as I have a deadline of completing a deferment form by 7 May.

          • Helene Meissenheimer

            Hi Nadia, I asked Seeff to reply to your question. This is their response: The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) allows for cancellation of leases giving 20 business days’ notice and the landlord will then be entitled to a fair penalty. The challenge of course is that the landlord cannot fill the space for as long as there is a restriction on movement. As with residential rentals, landlords need to be accommodating and there will need to be a level of give and take here too.

      • Lisa
        Reply

        Good Day. What does this mean for me please? I own two fast food outlets and had to close due to lockdown. I have no other source of income, pay monthly rental to landlords in advance who are now demanding their monies, which I have paid. What happens next month if there’s no income, how will I pay the rent then? Kindly advise further. If I don’t have rent money to pay, what are my rights?

        • Helene Meissenheimer
          Reply

          Hi Lisa, the lockdown is hitting the fast food industry very badly. Are you referring to your rent due on your fast food outlets or your residential premises? The law makes a difference between the two and the tenant’s legal obligation to pay rent in spite of an ‘act of God’ or force majeure as is the case with the lockdown.

          • Lisa

            Hello yes I’m referring to the rental on the outlets premises. Thank you

          • Tasneem

            Gooday please advise due to our business premises being under lock down we are unable to operate. If we are able to pay in good faith a portion of the monthly rental for the business property during this time until the restrictions are lifted can the landlord subsitute the deposit for the remaining of the rental?

        • Shelz
          Reply

          Hi, I need to ask, I had put my furniture at a storage for the month of March only. We never signed a contract because it was supposed to be only March. Now due to lockdown, I cannot take my furniture but already I paid rent where I am staying. Should I pay rent as well at the storage for April?

          • Helene Meissenheimer

            Hi Lisa, I think it will be best to make contact with the owner of the storage facility and see if you can come to some kind of agreement. Best of luck.

          • Imantha

            Hi, do businesses who cannot operate during lockdown get a reprieve from municipality payments?

          • Helene Meissenheimer

            Hi Imantha, you have to find out from your municipality. It differs from one to the other.

      • Jason
        Reply

        Good day Helene Meissenheimer

        My name is Jason. I have a sectional title and have just received my April levy statement.
        1. What do I do in a time like this(Lockdown)?

        2.Are the body corporate agency allowed to quote me, seeing that no work has taken place inside the complex during Lockdown?

        I received my full statement yesterday, they did not even provide a discount through these tough times.

      • Cynthia
        Reply

        Hi I have a question. I have two bonds existing on my name so my challenge is I am unable to pay them due to the world pandemic In my apartments there are tenants but unfortunately they are not paying because of this situation, so is there any assistance or relief that I can get so that I can also give my tenants a relief on paying rent?

        • Helene Meissenheimer
          Reply

          Hi Cynthia, have you approached your bank about a payment holiday on your mortgage?

    • Naima Bhyat
      Reply

      Hi Good day all… my situation is this:
      1. I am a single mother, and sole earner with 2 dependents
      2. I work from home doing informal treatments for people
      3. This is my only source of income
      4. During the Lockdown , I am prohibited from offering service and therefore unable to earn an income
      5. I will be unable to pay for my rental this month.
      6. What can be a solution for me?

    • Jennisha
      Reply

      Hi there, I have been on the internet trying to get some answers I have been told that I need to pay my rental of my flat in full and there is no arrangement that can be made as it is the decision of the landlord if they want to in good faith is this true?

    • Ronny Thomas
      Reply

      Tenant moved out by her own choice to go stay with her parents prior the first lockdown date. End of lease was agreed upon and signed to evict cottage at end of April 2020. She left behind her furniture and at that stage lockdown was not extended as current. Now the question, I’m a pensioner and got new tenants but can’t move in. I’m dependent on that rental. As a elderly I stay in my house with the new tenants and its uncomfortable for me. The eviction law is not an issue, as I said she as by her own choice decided to stay at another premises during the lockdown. What is my rights regarding the furniture in my cottage?

      • Helene Meissenheimer
        Reply

        Dear Ronny, I’m sorry but currently there doesn’t seem to be much that you or the tenant can do. The removal companies are not allowed to operate during Level 4 of the lockdown. Your tenant is also not allowed to come and fetch her belongings. So this is a problem and no-one knows when things will change or ease up.

    • Mari Huyser
      Reply

      Good day
      My father is 60 and cannot afford to pay outstanding levies, so the lawyer is demanding a amount that is not reachable. Can they auction their place?

  • Anne-Marie
    Reply

    If a tenant cannot pay their rent due to no income as a result of the COVID-19 situation, may
    the tenant request the agent / landlord to use part of their deposit as rental payment?

    • Sarah
      Reply

      I have a tenant who is behind with 3 months. He has been promising to pay but so far nothing. The electricity bill alone is already 20000 rands. The rentals in arrears are over 70000. The contract is concluding end of April.
      Just after the lockdown. I’m outside the country and not able to return due to the coronavirus but also due to work commitments.
      What should I do in this situation?

  • Anne-Marie
    Reply

    And the tenant also undertakes to repay the amount used from the deposit as soon as income has been reinstated?

  • Ria Pieters
    Reply

    My tenant gave notice on 27 February 2020. Now he is turning around and says he cannot be out on 28 March 2020 as his notice said he would be. What now?

  • Joe
    Reply

    Kan ek julle epos adres kry adb my epos is joeverkoop@gmail.com

  • mignon
    Reply

    My husband is self-employed, we will be able to pay the landlord this month but what about next month if there is no income?

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      Very good question Mignon and one I am sure that many are worried about. We’ll follow up on this.

      • Allan
        Reply

        As a private landlord, who depends on the income from commercial leases, including a couple of national tenants, to live, pay bonds, rates, service provided, insurance etc I have a problem with this.
        My argument is that the virus is the cause but the decision to lockdown the country was made by a government, not God. The lock down is therefore not an act of God and this should be argued by SAPOA.
        Mr Shevelew’s comment on this please.

  • memory
    Reply

    I was supposed to leave the place 31 March when my lease finish. So, I asked the landlord if I could stay until 21 lockdown is over. She agreed, now agent is claiming I still under him if I still stay on that property. I told him my lease with him is finished, I asked my landlord for extension coz of disaster. The agent is refusing to give deposit money coz I still stay on the property while month back when I needed help he told me he does not manage the place, the landlord does, his lease finished.

  • Elmien Kukkuk
    Reply

    Same problem. my husband is a small business owner. We won’t even generate an income this month because he couldn’t finish some of the jobs he’s busy doing so no payment. What can we do..? Already received a letter from Aida that they will blacklist us if we don’t pay.. need some information please

  • Talje
    Reply

    Both my husband and myself are real estate agents. So earn only commission. However all our deals were on process. Now the deeds office and attorneys are closed. We had a deal due for registration but it did not happen in time before the lockdown. How can we explain this to our landlord?

  • Phil Rowley
    Reply

    The ST Act requires all owners to pay their levies no matter what.
    IF owners decided, because of the virus thingy, not to pay, many bodies corporate would become bankrupt.
    Are Levies on the same footing as Rents?
    This is a vital question.

    • Vuyo
      Reply

      Good day,

      Thank you for the article. Kindly assist. I have submitted a notice period to my landlord on 31 March. And according to the the lease agreement a tenant is supposed to provide 2 months notice and the landlord is stating that April will not count as a notice period. The notice period will be by end of June.
      Is that permissible as they did not inform us about that on time. And now I am expected to pay double rent for two months (May & June).

  • Patience
    Reply

    I am a self employed hairdresser and due to the covid 19, i did not raise enough money for this month and will not be able to pay rent where i work and where i stay. What should i do?

  • Michelle
    Reply

    The company that I have started working for has closed for the 21day shutdown. I have been informed that since I do not have annual leave these days are unpaid days and will be advised closer to the time if work will resume.
    My partner has also been unable to work due to the restaurants and nightclubs being closed before lockdown began. Where do I stand legally on this situation.

  • Michelle
    Reply

    I would really appreciate advice on this. I can pay for the utilities as my family are using them but I cannot afford to pay everything and still support my children.

  • Robyn
    Reply

    I am directly affected by the lockdown as I work in aviation as a freelancer who works on a “no work no pay” model and as we know all passenger travel has been suspended. I have informed the managing agent for my complex that I won’t be able to pay levies due by me as a result of the lockdown. The last time I worked was on the 16th of March. There’s been no income. I was informed that I HAVE TO PAY. What am I to do?

  • Nick Ord
    Reply

    Great interpretation Marlon. Any guidance on the amount of remission? Would prorata be a good estimate?

  • Melissa
    Reply

    Good day, I need advice as I moved into our new home middle of the month and paid our first rent! A few days later its’ lockdown. We are self-employed and earn money on a day to day basis! Due to lockdown we can not work, so no income! How do we go about our next rent?

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      Dear Melissa, legally you are obliged by your rental agreement to pay the rent due as you are living (‘enjoying beneficial occupation’ is the legal term) in the residence. However, speak to your landlord – see if you can come to some kind of agreement that will help you both.

  • Lorraine Love
    Reply

    Thank you for this article. I have a question : a client of mine is unable to pay his rates due to no income and lockdown. Can these be waivered by the municipality? Does this fall into a credit life insurance policy? He also wants to know what the maximum interest is that the municipality can charge.

  • Kelvin
    Reply

    I rent a room in a commune with the landlord and other tenants.
    I am self employed and a student. Due to lockdown I was forced to close my business operations as all my clients will be working from home for the remainder of the year. I moved in end of January and signed a lease for the whole year. I asked my landlord for a release in the contract as I have no choice but to close down until further notice. I cannot pay for April hence I asked if he can use my deposit to cover this month and I served a 35 day notice. He is threatening to lock me out and sell my items to cover the rent for the whole year. Today he told me to get out of his house, everyday he knocks on my room and asks me to pay, I don’t know what to say anymore. My second worry is my health as he smokes and drinks with friends (visitors) in the property during lockdown…so leaving the property at end of April has been my request as I don’t have money to pay rent in April.
    Can he use my deposit to cover my April rent?

  • Jenny
    Reply

    This is an informative article. Thank you. So in short, landlords have zero options but to pay for their properties even if tenants don’t pay. Thus, landlords who are unable to pay mortgage and levies will be blacklisted an properties taken away?
    Is this understanding correct?

    • Pappa
      Reply

      When i worked in the bank years and years ago…. it was illegal to ‘bond’ a property with the intention of ‘letting’ it… precisely because of what you are referring to….’self enrichment’….shooting yourself in the foot now?

  • Christopher
    Reply

    Hello All

    I am currently renting a granny cottage and my income has been affected due to the 21 day lockdown. I have informed my landlord accordingly and her response was that she expects her rent in full. Fair enough, note that I am on 21 day unpaid leave and a further extension of 14 days with no funds, what are my options?

    On informing her that the further 14 days is also unpaid her response was to make provisions as it is not her problem. Please advise.

  • jacie
    Reply

    I moved out day before the lockdown. I still have not received my deposit back from the owner. I said to her before the lockdown she can come do an inspection after lockdown ends on 16 April and pay my deposit back. The situation have changed now and I need my deposit back. I even told the owner I will sent pictures of the place. She said she cannot pay the deposit back without inspection. I asked her to pay some of it back as I need to buy food for me and my daughter as I currently do not have money. She said she will only pay R1000 of my R7500. I cannot make a living on this, yesterday I asked her again I need at least some of my money, she ignored my Whatsapp. I personally think she used my deposit money and don’t have it, what are my rights? I need my money. Also, according to my contract, my money is supposed to be earning interest. Please assist me.

  • Mellissa
    Reply

    Hi, if we cannot pay rent this month due to not having sufficient funds, what proof can we give the landlord since we did pay an advance when moving in. Rent is paid every month on time, how can we go about the situation?

  • Mari
    Reply

    As a private landlord, I offer accommodation for students. Some students are still occupying their apartments during lockdown. The rest of the students have gone back to their family homes, while their belongings are still in their apartments Although the university is closed, these students were not told to leave as these apartments are their primary homes for the year, according to the lease contracts. Many of the students have bursaries. I depend solely on this income from these residential leases. I have to be able to pay bonds, rates & taxes, medical aid, service provided, insurance etc. Are all these students obliged to pay rent? Thank you

  • Ali Shaikh
    Reply

    Hi!

    Today my Landlord called me up and gave me a grace period of 30 days to vacate the house. So, I said it’s okay but she also said that she will be deducting one and a half (1 1/2) rent from the security deposit and will pay back the security deposit after 10 – 15 Days. I asked my landlord why this much time, she said that she will first check the home then she will repay but not before and not at the time of leaving. I said her if she want she can come check the home whenever she wants or on last day or a 1 day before leaving the house but she was not at all ready to hear.

    My security deposit is R25k wherein the landlord will deduct rent for one and half Month (R18k) so I will be left with R7k and I have approx R7k in my account.

    My wife lost her job in the month of Nov 2019 due to health issues as she was hospitalized. Then I lost my job in the last weak of Jan 2020 due to process shut. Then too we were able to manage as my wife had started searching for a job and I too but unfortunately the lockdown started and everything had to be stopped.

    NOW THE PROBLEM FOR ME IS THAT DUE TO LOCKDOWN I’M IN SHORTAGE OF FINANCE. I HARDLY HAVE APPROX RS. 7K IN MY ACCOUNT & NOW IF THE OWNER WILL NOT REPAY ME THE SECURITY DEPOSIT THEN HOW CAN I PAY THE DEPOSIT AMOUNT TO THE OTHER LANDLORD?

    KINDLY GUIDE ME TO GET OUT FROM THIS ISSUE.

  • Joey
    Reply

    Good Day, I have flats that I am letting through an estate agency who is also registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB). The principal of the letting estate agents has received all rental monies for April by the 01 April 2020 as confirmed by the estate agent after I inquired on 20 April 2020. However, as of today 23 April 2020 the estate agent has not passed the rental monies due to me as the landlord. I tried in vain to reach the estate agent and am afraid the May 2020 rental by tenants will also be withheld. Do I have the right to contact the tenants to let them pay rent directly into my account while sorting the issues with the estate agent? How do I deal with the estate agent? Do I inform the EAAB? Do I send a letter of demand through a lawyer and how much will this service cost?

  • alex buys
    Reply

    Hi, how do I deal with my rental agency not wanting to recognize TPN Recovery Rental Pack set out as a remedial action for the affected under lockdown and loss of income. All supporting documentations including forms completed and forwarded for their perusal as early as 07th April. My account with them is up to date with no hustle. I went as far as calling the rental agency and the agent in charge of my account said they are working on it they will get back to me. The only thing they did was to acknowledge receipt but never responded to the agreement application for the deposit utilization until today on the 25th April. They sent a statements for the May month with all normal charges as if nothing was ever communicated to them with regards to the recovery pack application. What’s even more confusing is that the rental agency is affiliated with the credit bureau when it comes to assessing/vetting their potential tenants, payment updates on their existing tenants, rental payment updating ….etc. They are using the services of TPN credit bureau to list bad payers and so on as far as rental collection updates. So how can they use a trusted service but not recognize its methods of dealing with rental recovery pack. Please advise how do I go about this stressful ordeal.

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      Hi Alex, have you contacted TPN about this directly? Perhaps they could advise or intervene?

  • Denise
    Reply

    Good morning, I am running a retail business and have approached my landlord to have the rent relaxed due to lockdown. They have however come back stating that as force majeure is not in the rental agreement and therefore cannot be applied in the circumstances and full rental for the month of April is still due! What can I do?

  • Neo Kunkushi
    Reply

    Hi, I own an internet cafe in Pretoria CBD. I was also forced to lockdown. Self-employed with no source of income. Few days ago I went to look for some docs at the shop only to find that my landlord has locked me out due to non-payment of rent. I checked the clause on the lease that outline about the act of God, accidental occurrence, it stipulates that he shall be excused for any failure to perform its obligations in terms of this lease as a result of vis major. Where do I stand in this situation? Don’t know where to start off after lockdown.

  • Lorraine Hawkins
    Reply

    I have a tenant in my property, with a lease agreement in place. I have short dated the lease agreement to 6 monthly, due to issues with rental & utility payment long before lockdown. As this tenant is self-employed (leasing a property & running a restaurant), they advise that they are unable to pay their monthly rental & utilities due to closing of business because of lockdown. I have given them a 30% moratorium to assist, as I also have a bond to pay & I am also paying rental where I am staying. With non-receipt of the rental, this has placed a huge burden on my financial situation, resulting in my landlord giving me notice. I have since contacted my tenants advising them that i will require my property in a month’s time as I will have nowhere to stay & I have given them the option to stay in the one bedroom outbuilding or that we move in with them until the lease expires end July. However they have been so rude & advise that they will call the police if I go to the property & they will not allow me access. I am blown away with this attitude as this is actually my property registered in my name. Please give me some legal advice.

    • merilen
      Reply

      Im actually going through the exact same thing and its an absolute nightmare

  • zuraida
    Reply

    Thank you so much for all the information in the article. I have a query, please assist.
    I live in a flat within the Durban CBD. Our landlord & the rental agents, I believe, are taking a bit of undue advantage of the fact that most of the tenants here are foreign (they don’t know the law that protects them as well as I do). For example, we have unfair increases of utilities within months of one another,
    they add taxes for us to pay on refuse, and even the built-in cupboards within the apartments, though no maintenance is ever done on them.

    Tenant A had an unexpected rental increase few months ago (shouldn’t the rent be the same month after month until proper notification is sent about increases, perhaps yearly?). His flat is smaller than mine, yet he was expected to pay R7000 for a 1 bedroom. When he contacted the landlord to query the unexpected increase, the landlord said along the lines, if you don’t like it, pack and move (that’s just me putting it in a nice way).

    Tenant B got the invoice for May, as we are all aware, no work, no pay. He asked the rental agent, how am I to pay my rental, can we make arrangements? He was told it’s not their (the rental agents) problem, he must pay.

    On several separate occasions the landlord sent the supervisor to illegally evict us (and other tenants, for reasons I’m not aware of).
    In Jan this year, when we (my family and I) made phone calls to the landlord explaining we may be late with the rent due, it being a quiet month and most people don’t work from day 1. That same day the supervisor was at our door asking us to remove ourselves and our belongings, we had to make a plan immediately.

    Our (us and other tenants) electricity gets shut off without notifying us, even though we are using electricity meters, due to there being no proper communication or proper admin between landlord and agents. The supervisor has come once with phone in hand, with some ridiculous amount we owe, only for us to show him on emails already sent to the rental agents that rentals have been paid, and there are actually no arrears. So why is the landlord sending the supervisor with incorrect information about arrears when we are in fact up to date.. my only explanation is that the rental agents aren’t doing a good job informing the landlord or keeping abreast with their admin.

    This is not just me, this has happened to other tenants, and not the first time, please can you assist> It would be our greatest joy if someone in authority could mediate the situation.

    I have been to the rental tribunal, and received no joy there. the matter was prolonged, and the landlord used the agents and the supervisor to threaten us, by shutting of our power supply, and other means.

    • zuraida
      Reply

      My apologies for the long comment above. Please help, and or direct us to some authority who can.

      • Helene Meissenheimer
        Reply

        Hi Zuraida, the Rental Housing Tribunal is still probably the best authority to assist you and the other tenants. I am not sure if they will be open from 1 May (or currently) but during this week this should be clarified (hopefully). The rental housing tribunal exists to resolve rental disputes and their services are free. All the best!

  • James
    Reply

    Mrng, thank you for the article you share. I need you advice, please kindly help. I am a small business operator but I can not work because of this COVID-19. My office agent sent me 2 invoices for April and May that I have to pay for the rent despite the fact we all know there is this epidemic. There’s no business as I am not operating as an essential. Please advice what to do…

    Thanks

  • Cindy Hector
    Reply

    Good day,
    I gave notice for my current flat as per the CPA, signed my new lease agreement and paid my deposit on the new unit.
    Lockdown has been extended and I can’t move out tomorrow. Do i have to pay the rental at both properties?

  • Nicole Halgryn
    Reply

    Hello. Just quickly want to find out what am I to do, we moved out of our old rental place the day the initial 21-day lockdown started. The rental agent did do an inspection on that day and showed up a few faults. We did fix everything during the lockdown. Everything is fixed. How do I get my deposit back? The rental agent does not want to do the inspection again? And on top off everything when we moved into the house nothing that was faulty was fixed as promised. We fixed everything ourselves during the year we lived there. Can they withhold our deposit?

  • Carla
    Reply

    Good day

    I would also like to find out what to do if my current landlord is refusing my 1 month’s notice? I have also been left with no income due to the lockdown and was offered temporary “free accommodation” until my financial situation changes, hence the reason why I decided to give notice. Now my landlord is refusing to accept my notice until she can find a new tenant or only after lockdown. She did however offer me a smaller monthly rental amount. I do understand that she will also have a loss of income, but I wont even be able to pay the less rental amount that she offered. Keeping in mind that I am already under debt review, a single parent and school fees etc also still needs to be paid. What can I do ?

  • Kim
    Reply

    I gave my agent notice on 20 April for 01 June. The only reason for this is that I have lost more than half of my salary and cannot afford the current rental. I live alone and am sole provider. The landlord and agent have been informed in detail of my situation over 6 weeks ago. The lease only expires in 8 months. The agent informs me I will only be released from the lease as soon as any one of the three below events occurs:

    a) The day from which a new tenant commences a lease.
    b) Three months from the date that your notice to vacate is received.
    c) The natural expiry of the existing lease.

    What I am supposed to do if I cannot afford the rental? Do I move out 01 June or stay until they find a new tenant and pay what I can afford? I can’t risk racking up debt or getting a poor credit history. Thank you

  • Anne
    Reply

    Hello…we have leased our flat through a rental agency. Can we request for the credit check done on the tenant by the rental agency as the tenant has issued with payment before the lockdown. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Sam Knowles
    Reply

    Hi, I am currently a tenant of the Johannesburg municipality with a commercial lease. I feel that I shouldn’t be charged rent during the lockdown as I couldn’t operate my restaurant.

  • Charlene
    Reply

    Good day

    I was supposed to move into a new property on the 1st of April 2020 but unfortunately due to lockdown I was unable to move. I had paid my deposit for the new property as well. I’m still in my current property and paying rent as required. I’m due to move into the new property now on the 1st of June 2020 as lockdown regulations have eased for people moving house until the 7th of June 2020. The landlord of the new property has now sent me 2 invoices for payment of rent for the months of April and May despite being in constant communication with the landlord about the lockdown. I would like to enquire if this is allowed under the Disaster Act and if I’m obligated to pay rent for a property I’ve never lived in, which of course, was no fault of mine. Thank you

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      Dear Charlene,

      Every situation is different depending on what is stipulated in the contract and said in verbal communication. However, if through external circumstances (force majeure in legal terms) you were unable to enjoy the benefit of occupation of your new lodgings, such as happened now due to the lockdown, then it would seem reasonable to expect that you can’t be held liable to pay rent for accommodation that you couldn’t move into. It would be better if you can contact Marlon Shevelew about this for a legal opinion.

    • Nomvatha
      Reply

      Dear Charlene,

      May you kindly share how did you resolve as I am facing the same situation.

  • anthea
    Reply

    HI

    Just want to know if I can.. due to the lockdown, my boss applied for the UIF TERS but still have not received any monies. I could not pay the April rent can or may I ask if they can not use my deposit, as I had to pay 3x deposit.

  • Chris
    Reply

    I lost my job since lockdown and started my own business spray painting cars on the property we renting. However, the landlord says that if I don’t stop working from home that he will have me arrested and gave me 48 hours to remove the cars. I compiled and now only have my 2 personal cars I’m fix in and he still insist that i can’t work from home. We have no other income and will not be able to pay for rent if I’m not allowed to work from home.

  • patsy
    Reply

    hi
    I have a family of 5 renting my property. March was the last he paid his utility bill, and now, due to the lockdown he says he can pay the rent or the utility but not both. His arrears are standing at rental arrears R7000 and his utility for April and May R8 100 with June to follow. To top it all he has his daughter/husband/child move in without our knowledge even though his contract states for his use only. We have no proof that he is getting paid UIF he won’t give us any proof. What is the way forward as I am petrified he won’t move out if I do give notice after the lockdown.

  • Thabang
    Reply

    My landlord switched electricity off without any notice and we made an arrangement for 5 June … we explaineď our situation. My 3 kids were home without food the whole day. Is it legal?

  • Emmie
    Reply

    Hi.
    Our lease agreement ended and we gave a calendar months notice just before the lockdown started. Our move out date fell into the first week of Level 5 lockdown. As it was against the law to move, we asked the agent if we could pay a weekly rental as we don’t want to enter into a new lease and of course cant move according to the law. It was agreed on the weekly rental. No further communication from the agent was received with any new changes etc. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, we were able to view and find new accommodation. I notified the agent we would be moving and we would still pay a weeks rental. They have now come back saying they want a months notice as they have changed the rules without communicating with us and without a written and signed agreement. Can they withhold our deposit and claim 2 weeks rental from us? The agent has made no effort to advertise the property from the date we officially ended our lease agreement. What rights or protection do we have as tenants as we cant afford to pay our new deposit or rental plus their extra 2 weeks rental they are now claiming. Surely if rules change tenants should be notified?

  • A IMMELMAN
    Reply

    Hi. My friend is a hair dresser. She had the budget of paying some amount in advance on a monthly basis which brought her in a position that at the time lockdown commenced and she could not work any further(she is the tenant and the business is hers) her monthly rent was in advance within the annual picture of paying it(hope I make sense: eg: her rent was R15 000 pm, but she paid R16 000 monthly). The landlord:
    1. Refuses to be lenient and give her a breather of the monthly rent;
    2. She cannot work;
    3.The landlord has already told her that should she return to the salon the rent will go up to R20 000 pm;
    4. Demands of her to still pay the R15 000-00 pm despite the fact she is an exceptional tenant and is within the wider picture paid up in advance;
    5. Has commenced with renovation work in front of the salon, making it an effort just to enter the salon, AND
    6. Demands June’s rent despite all the above.
    Can you help?

  • Emma
    Reply

    Hi…Please help, my lease expired end of April (we were still under lock down) we did not sign a new lease, so now in level 3 l have given my landlord one month’s notice. They are saying they will withhold my deposit as l have not given them 3 months notice, as it is now we were doing month on month. How do l deal with this, l obviously need my deposit since its a huge amount. Please advice.

  • Solomon Jackson
    Reply

    Informative article, just what I was looking for.

  • Michelle Maartens
    Reply

    Good morning

    In the case of student accommodation, where the university is closed and no students are allowed on campus, what is the situation regarding the rent of that accommodation. My child is a first year student and cannot go back to campus. Although she can stay in her flat, there is no sense in sending her back because all of her classes are now done online. I am prepared to pay a partial amount on the accommodation because this lockdown and COVID is nobodys fault. If they cannot go back to campus for the rest of the year, Im paying more than R40 000-00 for nothing. Money that I could have saved for next years accommodation. Please advise me on this situation.

  • Omar Osman
    Reply

    Hello. The rental that the estate agent collects on my behalf from my tenants, has not been in full during the lockdown period. Mostly the tenants only paid a small percentage of the full rent. But the estate agent takes her FULL commission, worked out as 10% of the full rental. My question is, is the estate agent not supposed to only take 10% of the actual rental received for that particular month? Thanks.

  • Ron
    Reply

    I have the same situation as Michelle Maartens, just that my child is at an international college in Durban Westville. She is a 1st year student and all the classes have been online since 18 March 2020. She was not staying at the private student accommodation as she was to go home immediately. We were informed last week that the second and final semester will also be online classes, therefore she will not return at all this year. A few of her things were left locked up in her room and we have paid in full rental (R3000) and transport (R700) from March to end July 2020 as the landlord was not willing to negotiate as he has commitments too.

    Money I could have saved.

  • Sarika
    Reply

    Hi,

    I would like to know, my bf and i live in an estate and since the lock down we havent had any money to pay our rent due to our small businesses not making any money, we have sheriffs at this point trying to get us to pay rent and wanting to remove our stuff from the estate unit.

    kindly let me know is this legal at this point?

  • Anna
    Reply

    What shpuld I do if my tenant is earning an income but cannot pay a portion of the rent? At the beginning of lockdown, it was understandable. We did give them a break. We then later on were notified that they went back to work. It appears that they’re still paying for their car but they refuse to give in portion of rent each month! Altogether, they owe for May, June, July. Can I evict them?

  • Gillian Barber
    Reply

    We have been paying a reduced rent during COVID-19. With effect from today there is a new owner (transfer went through today). We paid our rent for August (to the old owners and via PGP) and now we have been told that we need to pay a further amount as the new owner has put the rent up so we need to make another payment covering the difference? We have not signed a new lease.

  • Frans
    Reply

    Hi all,

    Can a tenant refuse to pay rent or withhold rent simply because he has not received a rental invoice even after he signed a lease that stipulates monthly payment and expected monthly payment date?

    Is it not a breach of lease by tenant to withhold rent?

  • Shaz
    Reply

    Good day,
    My parents (both pensioners) have rented their separate entrance just before lockdown started. This is an additional income for them, to cover expenses as pensioners don’t receive much from government. The tenants have not paid for 4 months and initially only gave half deposit. They refuse to move out, is in arrears with rental and water and have been abusing water usage. They have threatened my parents to say its illegal for them to rent out property, as they are pensioners & the house can be put up for auction. They then said that they will move out provided whatever they have paid thus far, be paid out to them & they will vacate. Can we partition the place to get additional tenants to cover costs. Please advise what can be done.

  • Shaks
    Reply

    In lockdown I was given one month rental relieve, and due to no work no pay I could not pay my rent for 2 months. Made arrangement to pay the rent off in part payments including full rental amount if I return back to work and earn a salary. It was granted, but my lease expire end October just received a letter it will be increased as from 1 November.

    What can I do regarding that increase situation. I am already paying off the 2months arrears and now still need to pay for an increase.

    Please I need assistance.

  • Emmanuel Kwonglee
    Reply

    Good morning. Due to the lockdown I am behind with my levies. I managed to pay the first month however not receiving a salary for 3 months I fell behind with my levies. My father passed away during the lockdown and we had to cross border travel and arrange a funeral which placed our finances into an even worse situation. With all this happening I was only able to make payment arrangements with the body corporate once i had returned home a month after the funeral as i had to make arrangements for my mom to be comfortable.
    On my return i made contact with the body corporate and advised them of my situation and even made payment arrangements to pay the outstanding balance however I requested them to please not charge me any interest due to the lockdown, the funeral and not having a salary. The body corporate came back to me and advised that the trustees feel that I should have arranged this before the lockdown like the other owners and will not assist me even though i explained my situation. I would therefore like to know if i can fight this or if i have to pay the interest as charged. Thank you. Emmanuel

  • Amelia
    Reply

    Good day, Please advice on the following matter: I vacated a rental property at the end of March. Due to the lockdown regulations were forced to vacate before the 27th (start of lockdown). There were a couple of minor things that still required maintenance/fixing which I planned to attend to at the end of the month on vacating of the property which was not possible at the time due to the reduced timeframe that was left. As an inspection was also not possible I made video footage of the premises. It’s been 5+ months and I still have not received balance of my deposit. Landlord won’t provide me with Proof of Payment for repairs done or proof of deposit saved in a bank account. Only provided invoices/quotes which has clearly been “inflated” and not a true reflection of the matter. Can I approach the body corporate for assistance to this regard, as it would seem that previous tenant/s experienced the same issues. Thank you.

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