Landlord throws tenant to the dogs

The Property Poser panel has been approached by a reader who relocated from one city to another and moved into a rental property about a month ago.

The initial inspection, conducted by the landlord and agent, only took place about a week later, whereupon it emerged that the owner was not happy with animals being allowed inside.

Charlotte Vermaak - Chas Everitt

Charlotte Vermaak – Chas Everitt

According to the reader, the preliminary negotiations took place only between herself and the agent. She says the latter made it clear that animals presented no problem whatsoever.

As a result of this disagreement, the landlord has now given the tenant one month’s notice to vacate the property. The reader, who paid a deposit as well as the first month’s rental, is unhappy with the whole situation.

She says nothing in the lease agreement makes mention of animals not being allowed inside the dwelling. The tenant also feels that one month is not a fair notice period and that the reason for cancellation is not reasonable or fair.

The reader also mentions that the letter in which notice was given is undated and wants to know whether this affects the validity.

There are a few issues at play here, says Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth.

“For example, it’s important to ask whether the agent acted within the bounds of his authority and whether he made any representations to which the landlord may be bound.”

Regardless of the agent’s assurances, it is very likely that the tenant could hold the landlord to the terms of the agreement, which were silent on the issue of animals being allowed, says Vermaak.

Rian du Toit - DTS Attorneys

Rian du Toit – DTS Attorneys

“It will be for the landlord to argue that the agent misrepresented the terms of the agreement and possibly acted outside of his authority in negotiating these terms.”

Having said that, we also need to consider the provisions of the agreement regarding cancellation of the lease by either party, says Vermaak.

“We need to ask whether the landlord is simply entitled to give a month’s notice.”

If that were the case, no reason would necessarily be required, as he would be acting within the scope of the agreement, says Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in PE.

“If some breach of the agreement is required, the landlord first has to put the defaulting tenant on terms.”

Du Toit says it is important to consider whether the tenant has, in fact, breached any terms of the agreement.

“One could argue quite strongly that there has been no breach, which would therefore negate any action the landlord may take in this regard.”

We unfortunately have no further information regarding the content of the lease agreement and it may be prudent for the tenant to approach the relevant Rental Housing Tribunal, says Du Toit.

“The Rental Housing Act makes provision for certain actions that potentially constitute an unfair practice and may be reported as such.”

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