One of our readers is unhappy with both a recent tenant of her property and the letting agent who initially secured and handled the tenant.
It appears that the agent introduced the candidate and assured the reader that she was suitable and that all credit checks had been properly performed. The reader was satisfied with this and signed the lease agreement.
At first everything went smoothly. The rental was paid on time and the reader had no other issues with the tenant.
However, from the third month problems arose. The rental payments were made on the seventh of the month or even later and the reader soon realised that a few thousand rands worth of damage had been caused to the property.
The agent was not very helpful in recovering the late rental payments. After doing some investigation of her own, the reader discovered that this tenant had judgments against her name and was in fact not suitable, despite the agent’s initial claims to the contrary.
The reader then decided to take steps of her own to rectify the situation. The tenant eventually vacated the premises of her own accord, but left the last month’s rental unpaid and the damage to the property unrepaired.
The reader issued summons against the defaulting tenant, but the sheriff could not find any goods to attach to satisfy the judgment that had been obtained.
It transpired that the ex-tenant was now also unemployed so her salary could not be garnished to repay the outstanding amounts.
The whole experience has left the reader out of pocket and she would like to know where her remedy lies.
We are not told what exactly the terms of the agreement between the reader and the letting agent were or whether a written contract was concluded, says Wanda Hayes from Huizemark Jeffreys Bay.
“Nevertheless, it does appear that certain representations were made by the agent. The landlord acted upon these representations and suffered damages as a result.”
Hayes questions whether the reader would have concluded a rental agreement with any tenant who did not have a clean credit record.
“It appears that creditworthiness was a clear requirement set by the reader and that she would not have entered into an agreement with someone who did not comply.”
Herman Pieterse from Jan Visser Attorneys in Jeffreys Bay says there may therefore be scope for a contractual claim for damages against the letting agent.
“This would most likely be for breach of the terms of the agreement, which involved finding a creditworthy tenant.”
The proof of the breach is quite clear in the tenant’s subsequent misconduct despite the agent’s false assertion of her good standing, says Pieterse.
“Alternatively, our reader may have a delictual action against the agent, based on the misrepresentations that were made. When the reader acted on these misrepresentations, it led to the damages that were incurred.”
Ask your property related question by clicking here.