Sub-letting made simple

Sub-letting –  with or without permission – is a trend that residential landlords can’t quite escape, especially as belts get tighter and we feel economic pressure.

“More and more illegal sub-letting is taking place, particularly in the emerging market space. People who might not be able to afford rentals are seemingly going through a middle man to secure a home to rent,” says Natalie Muller, head of rentals at Jawitz Properties in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

“Sub-letting can be dangerous, but there are three steps you can follow as a landlord to keep yourself safe.”

Trust your instincts. Generally, you will get a sense that something has shifted. Remember you are able to notify your tenants that you will be popping in to visit the premises at any time during the lease,” says Muller. “You are also perfectly within your rights to check in telephonically with your tenants at any time.”

If any sub-letting is going on, a managing rental agent should be able to step in and sort things out on a landlord’s behalf. An agent can also vet tenants – they can access data showing if someone is applying for rentals elsewhere and how frequently this is happening. A managing rental agent is also involved in the inspections between tenants, which helps to address any maintenance issues, and would also flag whether someone else is living in the home.

“An inspection is done annually even if a tenant stays on for another lease term,” Muller says. “It’s important to have all your checks and balances in a row, all the time.”

If you are wanting to do sub-letting or are open to your tenants doing so – perhaps to secure the rent – it is mandatory that the person who is currently renting your home, and therefore sub-letting, lets you know who the occupants are going to be.

Muller says that any criteria or rules should be shared with all occupants, and it would be wise to get copies of their IDs and personal information. You can also request details of former landlords for references for the sub-letting tenants.

“In terms of the Sectional Title Management Act, a landlord must disclose to the body corporate and its managing agents what the names and ID numbers are of all occupants. This is a requirement for the security of the building, as well for serving of information relevant to the block,” Muller says.

Important to remember as well is that any notices that need to be served on the tenant could potentially be served on the occupants too. So, the occupants take on responsibility as the tenants, even if they do not take on liability for the rent.

“The liability still sits with the original tenant,” Muller says.

Tenants need to realise that in terms of a lease agreement, it is their responsibility to let the landlord and managing rental agent, if applicable, know if things are changing in any way at the property.

“Failing to do so is considered illegal and the landlord will be able to take action. A landlord in evicting a tenant, evicts all the occupants at the same time,” Muller concludes.