Natalie Muller, Regional Head of Rentals, Jawitz Properties Western Cape
You might be a well established landlord or simply thinking of getting in to the game. While you may consider doing it alone, using a reputable rental managing agent can greatly assist you in keeping your tenants in check and protecting your interests. Here are three situations to be aware of.
- Airbnb and subletting. Holidays at the end of year are just around the corner, making now a tempting time for tenants to consider subletting either a room in your property, or your entire home without your knowledge. This could be a lucrative opportunity for tenants to supplement what they pay in rent but without your permission, it is simply not okay to do so. If you live far from your property or rely on a friend to manage it for you, short of keeping a constant eye on Airbnb listings, it can be difficult to check that your tenants aren’t taking advantage. A managing agent regularly checks in with tenants, has conversations with them and can pick up if anything is amiss, such as subletting going on without your permission.
- Renting to foreign nationals. The Western Cape in particular is a desirable destination for foreign tenants, but how do you vet them to make sure you can actually rent to them safely? While there are foreigners with permanent residency, or those on sabbatical or study leave, often 90 days is the term of a visa to stay and it is not unheard of that tenants can bend the truth to get into a rental property, only to literally fly away in breach of the lease. It is absolutely essential to check their credentials from their bank details in the country they are from, to making sure they are creditworthy. Relying on these means and references, however, might not be enough. Managing agents can help to properly screen a prospective foreign tenant and will go as far as to search for them on social media, for example, to ascertain their character and who or what they are associated with. The most thorough screening protects you from losing out on rent and being faced with trying to seek recourse with an absconding tenant who has left the country altogether, and left you in the lurch.
- Up to date utility accounts. As you can no longer put utility bills into the names of tenants, it is often more cost effective for you to install a prepaid electricity metre. However, if you don’t keep your other utility bills (i.e. your rates) paid up to date, when a tenant puts in prepaid electricity, part of it can be deducted due to arrears on your accounts. This of course is unfair to the tenant and could result in them attempting to claim compensation or withholding paying rent until you address the problem and settle your bills. A tenant may not withhold rent at any time for any reason and doing so would affect his or her credit rating, and more importantly for you, your cash flow would be negatively impacted. It is therefore of the utmost importance, for your own creditworthiness as well in any case, to pay your utility bills. Managing agents are the go between, and a middle man can be helpful if there are sensitive issues like this to deal with. By keeping communication lines open, managing agents can keep both the tenant and landlord informed and make sure problems are reasonably resolved or avoided all together.
While you could manage these situations yourself, having an efficient managing agent in your corner, looking after your property can greatly assist you in keeping things on track and ultimately give you peace of mind.