One of the biggest risks facing landlords these days is what to do when their tenants stop paying. And yet they continue to squat on the leased property like blood-sucking parasites, smugly quoting the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act word-for-word. Evicting a tenant is an incredibly frustrating, exasperating, soul-destroying process. It’s a process that takes months, not to mention the magnitude of the landlord’s losses: lost rental while you still have to pay the bond, rates and levies; your attorney’s fees that you know you’ll never be able to recoup from your tenant; the very real likelihood of huge maintenance costs to repair the property once the tenants are finally booted out.
And so it is that many a frustrated landlord, pushed to the very edges of their sanity, would possibly be very tempted to attempt what Dalindyebo did. He took a rather innovative approach to getting rid of unwanted inhabitants – by setting fire to his property. When he was charged with arson, he argued that it’s not arson when you set fire to property that belongs to you. In Dalindyebo v S, the court held that:
- in this case, the property was not technically his. He only held the property as a hereditary monarch for the benefit of his tribe; and
- in any event, where a person sets fire to their own immovable property it is indeed considered to be arson when the intention was to cause injury to another person, such as the tenant.
Landlords who want to avoid contemplating desperate and potentially illegal measures to eradicate recalcitrant tenants should consider doing background checks on their tenants before renting property to them. And, of course, ensure that they sign a Lease Agreement. And then show their tenants that they mean business by taking prompt action when the tenant pays late (or not at all), in the form of a Letter of Demand for Rental. And if all else fails, consult an attorney before burning down the house!
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.