Written for Property Poser

Our Property Poser panel has received a disturbing letter from a reader, outlining several complaints and concerns about tenants renting a house in their neighbourhood.

According to the reader, the house and yard are in a terrible state. Cars and trucks are being repaired on the premises, drainage pipes have broken off and sewerage sometimes runs down the street.

The letting agent and the tenants allegedly do not respond to complaints from neighbours. Apparently, the tenants have also not paid rent for the past three months.

The reader wants to know what the duties and responsibilities of the letting agent are and what recourse other homeowners in the street have in dealing with the situation.
Liesel Greyvenstein of Greyvensteins Nortier says when a property owner entrusts his property to a letting agent, the mandate contract between the two parties will stipulate the agent’s responsibilities.

The agent’s duties could be limited to, for example, finding a suitable tenant, doing credit checks on the prospective tenant and collecting the rent. “Usually, however, the mandate includes administrative duties like inspecting the property on a regular basis and arranging for repairs and maintenance up to an agreed amount,” says Greyvenstein.

“These duties can also include bringing complaints from neighbours to the tenant’s attention and ensuring that the complaints are addressed. In the latter instance, there is a contractual obligation on the agent to execute these duties in a diligent manner,” she says.

“Failure to do so, could lead to the agent being held liable for damages, for example loss of rental, eviction costs, damages, etc.”

She says if the property is situated in a development where there is a homeowners’ association, the constitution and house rules typically authorise the association to take steps against a tenant causing problems for neighbours.

These can include fines, effecting repairs, maintenance and recouping the costs incurred by adding them to the levy statements of the owner. Penalising the owner for the tenant’s actions is an effective method to force him or her to take responsibility for what is happening on the property.

Jaco Rademeyer of Jaco Rademeyer Estates says if the property does not fall under the authority of a controlling body, it is more difficult for neighbours to get the owner involved in complaints about the tenant.

“If there are problems like sewerage running down the street, as in the reader’s case, then the municipality can be approached to inspect the property, do repairs and to take steps to curb the problem,” he says.

“The municipality is legally authorised to force property owners and tenants to comply with the municipal laws, which include matters like dealing with blocked sewerage pipes that cause a health hazard. The police can also be called if the tenants are noisy and disruptive,” says Rademeyer.

He says title deed conditions often include conditions that were imposed by the municipality when approving the development of the neighbourhood and which limit owners’ and tenants’ use of the property in consideration of the neighbours.

“Examples of these are that certain animal species may not be kept on the property and no work may be done that causes an unreasonable and continuous level of noise. If the tenant of a property does not act in accordance with the title conditions, the neighbours may request the municipality to enforce these conditions against the property owner.”

Rademeyer says if all else fails, the neighbours can force the property owner to deal with the issues by way of a court order. Their right to institute action arises from the fact that their enjoyment of their own properties are limited by the tenant’s actions and that the value of their properties are affected. 

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