Since renting out a room in the townhouse in which she lives, a reader has had constant issues with the lodger and wants to terminate the lease.
In the written agreement between them certain terms and conditions were set out, but it is clear that the reader did not anticipate the baggage that would accompany the tenant.
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She says the tenant played on her feelings, saying her husband had thrown her and her child out of their home, and they were going through a messy divorce.
It later emerged that the tenant had left her husband ‒ possibly forced by circumstances ‒ and that he was entitled to visit their child every weekend.
The visits took place in the rented room but did not always involve the child, who was sometimes left with the reader while the tenant and her husband argued loudly.
The parties initially discussed a monthly rental but the tenant gets paid weekly, so a weekly rental arrangement was agreed.
This seems to have worked satisfactorily until they came to a month that had five Fridays. The tenant then complained that the “monthly” rental was too high.
She said the amount for five weekends combined exceeded the initially discussed monthly rental.
It seems the landlord was forced to submit to the tenant’s argument and waived the rental for the disputed week.
As a result of the continued aggravation, the reader, who also has a child, would like to terminate the lease.
The lease agreement between the parties is not ideal as it appears to be a document sourced from the internet.
It was not drawn up with South African law in mind, nor was it drawn up to cater for the rental of a single room in a house.
However, it does set out certain aspects and confirms that the arrangement is month-to-month. It also provides for termination in the event of a breach by the tenant.
Excessive noise and disruption caused by the tenant is regarded as a breach of the agreement.
Considering the close domestic environment – a private residence also occupied by the landlord and her child – the regular disturbances caused by the personal circumstances of the tenant may also suffice as a breach.
The Rental Housing Act states that the landlord’s rights include the right to terminate the lease in respect of a dwelling or rental, provided it does not constitute an unfair practice and is specified in the lease.
The lease agreement does not specifically address what should happen in the event of a breach by the tenant. Placing the tenant on terms would be sensible practice.
The reader should notify the tenant of the breach but, as the breach appears to depend on when the tenant’s husband visits, it may be difficult to assess whether the breach has been remedied.
The remedy in this instance should be aimed at the prevention of further instances rather than the correction of a previous or existing breach.
Thus, the notice could specify that a further instance will constitute a breach that will be actionable.
This will allow the reader to exercise her right to terminate the agreement in accordance with the provisions in the agreement.
The lease agreement makes reference to “house rules” that apply in respect of the use of the “premises”, but it appears the parties failed to set out any such house rules.
In the current circumstances, house rules accompanied by a practical system for breach of such rules may well have assisted the situation.
These are absolutely necessary considering that the tenant is a lodger sharing the living space of the landlord.
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