Written for Property Poser

This week our Property Poser experts consider questions from two readers about the rights of tenants in relation to their landlords.

The first question comes from a tenant whose landlord has recently passed away.

The property has been placed on the market and he wishes to know what his rights are as far as the agent putting up a “for sale” sign and bringing in potential buyers goes.

The second issue relates to a long-term tenant of a rental property, who would like to know whether it would be possible to purchase it from the owner.

According to the first tenant, there have been times that he has legitimately been unavailable to grant access to the property.

The agent, however, portrayed the situation to the relatives of the deceased that he is simply never available and refuses access.

The relatives responded with an e-mail demanding that the reader make himself available or leave the keys for the agent.

The tenant is concerned about his right to privacy and would like to know how much notice he must be given before the buyers are brought around for a viewing. He also wishes to know whether he has to display a “for sale” notice on the property.

This eventuality is often provided for in the lease agreement, but the reader has not mentioned what provisions exist between himself and his landlord, says Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth.

“As much as a tenant’s rights to privacy are protected, the landlord, or a representative agent, has the right to gain reasonable access to the property in order to show potential buyers around.”

Vermaak says the tenant therefore has to be fair in this regard and grant such access. “Similarly, the agent’s demands for access must also be reasonable.”

For example, it would not be reasonable to arrange for five different viewings at five different times on one day and merely expect the tenant to be there, says Vermaak.
“Likewise, it is arguably reasonable for the tenant to permit a ‘for sale’ sign to be displayed on the property, as this in itself does not infringe on his rights.”

As for the second reader’s question regarding the potential purchase of the property he has been renting, this is also often documented in the lease agreement, says Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in PE.

“The tenant may have obtained an option to purchase the property at some stage or even the right of first refusal should the property be placed on the market.”

In the absence of such provisions, says Du Toit, there is no special right granted to a tenant by the mere fact that he has been renting the property for a long time.

“The negotiation of the sale of the property will take place, as in any other instance, according to the willing buyer, willing seller principle.”

Du Toit says the owner is under no obligation to sell to the tenant if the terms of the sale cannot be agreed upon.

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