According to the regulations of the national state of disaster, tenants who were due to move at the end of March must remain in place until after the lockdown, which currently ends on April 16. In addition, tenants should insist that their new home is properly cleaned and sanitised before they move in. New tenants will not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until they can take occupation, because these circumstances are beyond their control. Moreover, the landlord or agent will not be able to let the property to someone else during lockdown, even if it is empty. If they haven’t done so already, the best advice for landlords or agents with tenants currently in place who were supposed to move out by 1 April, is to offer them a one-month extension on their lease to remain in place during lockdown. The tenants will be liable for the rent for that month. Landlords must know their rights if tenants lose their income because of the lockdown or the economic effects of the pandemic.
We suggest that, should they qualify, tenants who have always paid their rent in full and on time before be asked to sign a waiver for their deposit to be used as rent for a certain time instead of it having to be held in trust. It would be best if this agreement were drawn up by a professional rental agent. It should contain a provision that the deposit is to be reinstated, perhaps in instalments, by a certain date, and that the landlord will be able take legal action if the tenant reneges on such an arrangement. Alternatively, a landlord may decide to give good tenants a “payment holiday” during the lockdown or even for the following couple of months, especially if the landlord has been given a similar indulgence by their bank on their home loan instalments. However, landlords should be cautious and ensure that a written agreement is in place that enables them to withdraw the indulgence under certain circumstances. The unpaid rent is to be reinstated before the end of the lease and the landlord should be able to take legal action in the event that the tenant reneges on this special arrangement. When it comes to tenants who had been given notice to move out because they were already defaulting on their rent, landlords may now be obliged to let them stay on at least until the end of the lockdown. However, if they again don’t pay rent it is important that the landlord or agent keep reporting this to the credit bureaux and continue to follow the correct legal procedures so that the eviction process can begin promptly after the state of disaster is lifted.
“New tenants will not be required to pay rent until they can take occupation, because these circumstances are beyond their control”