Monthly Archives: July 2020

Moving house safely

B1We’ve all felt like it – the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, sure someone is keeping an eye on you, watching as you receive a DVD box set that was for some reason labelled “essential” on the online store, sneaking in at 09:20 after the morning jog you were sure was shorter yesterday, or absent-mindedly fixing your mask as you stand in the chocolate aisle at the supermarket.

Feeling like you are crossing a line has become part of daily life and moving during the lockdown may have many people feeling just as guilty.
But as with most regulations, things have changed (except for the mask part – it’s best to just ignore the tickle till you get to your car). Moving during Level 3 is allowed, and with the effects of the lockdown touching so many lives, a very possible occurrence as landlords and tenants alike seek their footing.

The good news is that moving safely is entirely possible.

The most important element is following adequate safety measurements throughout the process. Businesses operating under Level 3 are all required to have an adequate safety plan in place, with a COVID-19 Compliance Officer that oversees the company’s compliance with the necessary preventative measures. These requirements ensure that estate agents and transport companies keep every person involved in the move safe. These are the most important guidelines to follow when moving:

  • Get the necessary permits from a SAPS office that will allow you to travel during the lockdown.
  • Adhere to social distancing and keep a minimum of 1,5m between yourself and the transport team.
  • Have sanitiser handy to offer to all parties before and after the move.
  • Sanitise the surfaces of the old property once furniture has been removed; sanitise surfaces in the new property both before and after furniture has been moved in, as well as the furniture itself.
  • Be kind with your words, not your actions, for the time being.

These precautions are there for a reason. The real estate industry relies heavily on multi-channel interaction and is, consequently, at high risk. This has been seen in the Johannesburg and Pretoria deeds offices, which were forced to close temporarily on June 12 after conveyancers in the building were tested positive for the virus, and the Cape Town deeds office, which has already closed twice for the same reasons.

While moving is allowed, tenants are still encouraged to move into a new safety bubble only if it is truly necessary. When moving is truly the only option, ensure that the necessary safety precautions are adhered to.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

The rental relationship during lockdown

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The relationship between landlord and tenant is a symbiotic one, where the efforts of either party results in the best outcome for both parties. During the lockdown, this two-way relationship between many tenants and landlords has been threatened. The biggest contributor to this is quite simple: a lack of information.

Paying your dues

One of the biggest impacts the lockdown has had on tenants is through affected income. Unfortunately, tenants are still required to pay the full rental amount if they are still able to occupy the property, regardless of how their income has been affected. Where income has been affected, tenants should discuss the possibility of a reduced rent directly with their landlords.
Landlords, however, also rely on rental income and cannot always afford to lower rental amounts. When this is the case, tenants can, technically, apply to the Rental Housing Tribunal to request a reduction in rent, but due to new cases not being heard at the moment, such a request is unlikely to be successful. The best option is for tenants to apply for State assistance, and so ensuring the least impact on both parties.
With these types of requests, it is important to note that landlords will have to be furnished with relevant personal information of the tenant to corroborate a tenant’s inability to pay their rent. The landlord will, however, be responsible for guarding the privacy of their tenant’s personal information in such a case.

Sticking to the rules

Even when the relationship is no longer a beneficial one, and becomes filled with strife, landlords may not terminate a lease or refuse services to tenants and may not insist on conducting an investigation of the property without the tenant’s express permission. Similarly, tenants may not cancel their leases during this time either. Such “threatening” actions are highly discouraged while the country is in any level of the lockdown.
As before, a tenant’s deposit may not legally be used to cover rental arrears, but only for its intended post-rental purposes. Deposits, along with the accrued interest, must be refunded to the tenants upon their exit, where only the necessary cost of repairs may be deducted.
Landlords are also still responsible for the maintenance of their properties, and for ensuring liveable conditions for their tenants. During any maintenance procedures landlords and workmen are obliged to adhere to social distancing and must follow adequate sanitising methods throughout. The landlord must also provide the necessary clothing and equipment for the procedures to be completed themselves.

End of lease

But while tenants may not be evicted and leases may not be terminated, the reality is that leases do come to an end. As far as possible, tenants and landlords are encouraged to continue their relationship, even if just on a month-to-month basis until moving house can be done without safety hazard. Where the continuance of a lease is not possible, tenants should obtain a permit from the SAPS allowing them to move freely during their relocation, and follow strict safety measures throughout the process.

For more information, visit the Western Cape Government’s information page.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)