South Africa’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Experts have predicted that the new variant of the COVID-19 virus, which has been found to be more contagious, is running rife in South Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa is expected to only get worse. South Africa is currently recording record numbers of daily infections and deaths. The new COVID-19 variant is responsible for South Africa being moved suddenly from Lockdown Level 1 to Lockdown Level 3. What does this mean for landlords who are struggling financially to recover rental from defaulting tenants? Alternatively, if you are a defaulting tenant, could you suddenly find yourself homeless during the middle of this pandemic?
The “good news” depending on whether you are the landlord or tenant, is that all eviction orders are automatically suspended during Lockdown Level 3. Landlords may proceed with eviction proceedings, however the moratorium on executing eviction orders remains in place until the lockdown restrictions have been revised. This does not mean landlords are completely left without recourse. Landlords are encouraged to approach their Attorneys during this time and instruct them to launch eviction proceedings against defaulting tenants. The eviction process can be a slow process therefore you can use this time to your advantage. This way you could secure your property as soon as the lockdown restrictions have been amended.
Although, tenants cannot be evicted from rented property at this time, this is definitely not “good news” at all. Rental is still due and payable. Should you fail to pay your rental timeously or at all, the outstanding rental may begin to accumulate to an unmanageable amount. Tenants must be aware that landlords may still approach the Court to obtain an Order in respect of the outstanding rental and execute this Order over your movable property. By this time, you may not be in a financial position to do anything when the Sheriff of the Court suddenly comes “knocking at your door” and begins to pack up your personal property to be sold on auction. You are well advised to approach your landlord and/or consult with an Attorney to negotiate a payment holiday alternatively to amicably agree on a payment plan to catch up any arrears.
Tenants should also be aware that if you are renting a property and the lease agreement has expired, you must continue to pay rental in terms of the expired lease agreement. The fact that the lease agreement has expired does not provide you with an “automatic payment holiday”. The expired lease agreement becomes a month-to-month lease with all the same terms being enforceable.
With the uncertainty whether South Africa’s lockdown restrictions will be reduced any time soon, landlords are encouraged to approach their Attorneys to instruct them to claim the outstanding rental due by tenants. It is ill advised to simply sit back indefinitely waiting for the COVID-19 virus to disappear before enforcing your rights and improving your financial position.
Whether you are a landlord or tenant, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can either help recover arrear rental, secure an eviction order or put an agreement in place which is mutually beneficial for both parties. Let us help you during these unprecedented times.