The COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown continue to negatively impact the economy.
Although its back to work for some under Level 4 of the lockdown, an increasing number of South Africans who are currently renting a place to stay struggle to keep up with their rental payments due to job losses or salary cuts.
Here are some key considerations which might help tenants (and landlords) navigate through this difficult time:
- On Friday, 1 May 2020 South Africa moved from Level 5 to Level 4 lockdown as detailed in a new set of regulations published in the Government Gazette on 29 April 2020 (“the Level 4 Lockdown Regulations”).
- The Level 4 Lockdown Regulations do not contain any provisions that allow tenants not to pay rent, and they also do not contain any provisions to the effect that landlords may not collect rent during the Level 4 lockdown period.
- Tenants should therefore continue to pay rent as required if they are able to do so.
- If they can’t afford to pay rent, tenants are encouraged to talk to their landlords to try and make some sort of payment arrangement which may possibly include payment holidays or payment plans.
- Landlords are encouraged to be accommodating if approached by their tenants during this period.
- Regrettably, tenants who cannot make the required rental payments and who are unable to come to a suitable arrangement with their landlords run the risk of ultimately being evicted from their rental homes.
- That said, it’s important to note the following prohibition on evictions contained in the Level 4 Lockdown Regulations which could provide some relief for struggling tenants –
“A competent court may grant an order for eviction of any person from land or a home in terms of the provisions of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998: Provided that any order of eviction shall be stayed and suspended until the last day Alert Level 4, unless a court decides that it is not just and equitable to stay and suspend the order until the last day of the Alert Level 4 period.”
- This means that although a court may in appropriate circumstances grant an order for eviction, the tenant in question cannot be evicted in terms of that order until the end of the Level 4 lockdown period, unless the court decides that it is just and equitable to do so.