Written for Property Poser

Our Property Poser experts have been alerted to an interesting situation by a reader who owns a flat, which he rents out.

When his last tenant’s contract came to an end and he left the unit, the owner released his deposit, as he was under the impression that all was in order.

Two months later, the reader received a notice from the management agency in charge of the complex regarding an incident that had taken place while the tenant was still occupying the unit.

The police had been summoned to sort out the matter and the tenant allegedly made such a mess in the passage in front of the unit that professional cleaners were called in.

The reader was informed that the cost of the cleaning amounted to R580 and that his levy account would be debited with this sum.

Because he did not receive the notice in time to hold the tenant liable – and because he feels the amount is excessive – the reader has objected to footing the bill. The managing agent, however, is insisting that it be paid.
“While it is understandable that our reader is unhappy with the manner in which this problem was handled, a certain level of discipline has to be maintained regarding the appearance of the common areas in a sectional title complex,” says Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth.

Vermaak says the passage in which the incident occurred forms part of such a common area. “Therefore, all aspects of the management and maintenance thereof lie with the body corporate or managing agent if one has been appointed.”

The reader does mention that he has already entered into correspondence with the managing agent, says Vermaak, but to no avail.

“There is always the option of referring the matter to arbitration, but one must consider whether the nature of it justifies the time and potential expense involved.”

When it comes to resolving disputes, arbitration is, however, often more time and cost-effective than litigation, says Charl Crous from Du Toit Strömbeck Attorneys in PE.

“The fact that his tenant has left, and the deposit has been refunded, does not mean that the owner has no right to recover this expense from him. It may just be a more lengthy process.”

Crous says the reader is legally entitled to demand payment. Should the ex-tenant fail to settle the account, he could then resort to legal action.

“He should perhaps consider taking the matter further in the Small Claims Court, which is a quicker and far less expensive route available for civil disputes and debt collection.”

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