Property owners should get to grips with tenants

A landlord or his representative, such as an attorney or letting agent, ought to examine a prospective tenant's background.

It is the tenant who is going to occupy the dwelling with total access and control over the landlord's dwelling for the duration of the lease.

The tenant acquires a limited real right which legally restricts the owner's or landlord's access to the dwelling.

This is perhaps the main reason to find out about the prospective tenant's rental payment history, conduct and how she or he took care of the previous dwelling.

While payment of security deposit and joint inspection by parties are essential safeguards, the landlord or agent should not ignore credit checks and background information.

Most letting agents need prospective tenants to complete an application form in which information is requested for the screening process.

Prospective tenants have to provide copies of their IDs and proof of income.

There are registered credit bureaus which provide significant information.

They verify the tenant's identity against the Department of Home Affairs database and the legal status of the prospective tenant.

In the instance of the landlord contracting directly, it would be prudent to stipulate a condition that the lease contract would be signed by the landlord subject to certain information about the tenant being obtained and this tenant information living up to the landlord's expectations.

To obtain the necessary information, the prospective tenant must be willing to supply: 
  • Proof of income. 
  • Financial status.
  • Rental receipts of the previous leased dwelling.
  • Contact details of the previous landlord. 
  • An employment record. 
  • Their current employment position. 
  • A copy of their ID.
  • References from the previous landlord and employer.
  • If a credit check needs to be done, the prospective tenant must give their written permission.

Once all the information is obtained, the prospective tenant's profile should provide adequate responses to the following:
  • Tenant's affordability for leasing of the property. 
  • Their employment status. 
  • The history and period of occupation at the previous dwelling and whether rental was paid on time and in full.
  • What the condition of the dwelling was during their period of occupation.
  • If the tenant was evicted, reasons for the eviction.
  • The number of people who occupied the dwelling with the tenant.
  • Once the lease is signed, the landlord must carry out a joint inspection with the tenant. The inventory list of the inspection must form part of the lease.

A landlord is likely to sustain serious financial loss if he fails to do a credit check and to establish a prospective tenant's background.

Where the landlord engages the services of an agent, there must be clarity at the outset about the agent's mandate.

The agent may be tasked to find a tenant (procurement lease) and have the lease signed, but not be involved afterwards.

The agent should be required, in a procurement lease, to conduct background and credit checks and be involved in drafting a lease agreement.

The mandate should also state that the agent must discuss the potential tenant's details, obtained with the landlord who may then instruct whether to conclude a lease or to decline the application.

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