Bad tenant racks up thousands

A Table View couple say their tenant, an estate agent, has racked up an outstanding bill of more than R40 000 for rent, water and electricity and that he is using his “know how” to get away with it.

A year ago, Tania and Mario Peake bought a three-bedroom house in Flamingo Vlei that they planned to fix up, rent out and eventually sell again.

“Whatever profits we could make was to go towards buying a suitable family home,” said Ms Peake.

The property is being managed by Realtor of Excellence with a 12-month lease that expires at the end of November.

Ms Peake said that during the leasing period they had found a buyer for the house and had arranged for the sale to go through when the lease expired.

But their tenant, Nathan Oda, has thrown a spanner in the works by defaulting on rent payments for three months as well as electricity, water and sewerage charges according to Ms Peake.

Mr Oda works as an estate agent for We Trade Property, and Ms Peake believes she and her husband are dealing with a “professional” who is making them pay while he lives for free.

“He is using common tactics like not taking calls, never available, not answering the door and is not bothered by cancellation of his lease. We are now faced with eviction at our home due to our inability to pay monthly cost on both properties,” said Ms Poole.

At the beginning of the month, Mr Oda contacted the Pooles through the rental agent saying he will pay R9 000 on October 1, R9 000 by mid-October and R9 000 at the end of October and that he will move out at the end of October.

“We told him we’d only accept the three payments if he moved out at the end of September. Alternatively, if he wanted to stay on, he needed to settle everything by October 1. He completely ignored us, paid R9 000 on October 1 and remains in the property,” said Ms Poole.

Mr Oda said he was embarrassed about the situation and planned to pay back every cent. He said he had fallen on hard times earlier this year after his father died. He said he had become depressed and had not been performing at work and had therefore not been earning commission.

He said he would move out by the end of this month. However, he admitted that so far he had done no more than scroll through properties online to find somewhere else to stay.

He had not paid the R9 000 by mid-October as promised because he was waiting for commission to come through, he said.

Ms Poole informed his work about him defaulting on payments and Mr Oda said that as as a result he had been suspended from work for 30 days.

Branch manager of We Trade Properties Shyellah Cohen confirmed the suspension but said it was “completely unrelated” to the rent dispute.

Ms Poole said Mr Oda had never mentioned being depressed at all. She said she had become increasingly desperate.

“Lawyers are dragging their feet, and we are left completely helpless,” she said.

Marcellino Martin, spokesperson for Human Settlements MEC Minister Tertuis Simmers, said the Pooles could lodge an official complaint with the department about Mr Oda’s failure to pay rental and municipal services.

The matter could take up to 90 days to finalise according to the Rental Housing Act, said Mr Martin. The act

dealt with rights and obligations of both tenant and landlord and also gave guidance on lease agreements, he said.

Tips from the Tenant Profile Network: BLOB

Can the landlord (estate agent) cancel my lease and evict me if I do not pay rent?

Refer to the lease agreement, specifically to any cancellation clause.If the lease agreement is month-by-month, then a calendar month’s notice is required to cancel the lease. If the lease agreement is for a fixed period and there is no cancellation clause, then the tenant can rely on his right to early cancellation in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, but remember the landlord can charge a reasonable cancellation penalty. BLOB

Can I use my deposit as the last month’s rent?

No, you have an obligation to pay the proper amount of rent at the proper place and time. If you fail to pay the last month’s rent, you are committing a breach of lease and the landlord is entitled to take the necessary legal action including blacklisting on credit bureaux. BLOB

Am I entitled to know why my application was declined? Yes, reasons for rejecting your application for rent might include your credit profile, affordability or suitability such as “no pets” allowed in the complex. Your application may not be rejected due to discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. BLOB

Can the landlord cancel my lease if the property is sold?

The tenant is protected by the common law “huur-gaat-voor-koop.” If the property is sold, the new owner becomes the landlord and all the terms of the existing lease are enforceable. The owner cannot cancel the lease, but must wait until the end of your existing lease period. The new owner is also responsible to refund your deposit less any claim for damage.

There are some exceptions:

· If the lease agreement makes provision for the landlord to cancel in certain circumstances like the sale of the property

· If the property is sold on auction by the Sheriff of the Court