Swemmer & Levin

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Navigating the world of lease agreements can be complex and fraught with potential pitfalls. In South Africa, these agreements are an essential tool for establishing clear expectations and protecting the interests of both landlords and tenants. Whether you’re a seasoned property manager, a first-time landlord, or a prospective tenant, understanding the nuances of these contracts can be critical to ensuring a positive leasing experience.

Lease agreements, contrary to the perception of some, are not just a bureaucratic formality. They are a necessity that provides certainty by explicitly outlining the responsibilities of all involved parties. A well-drafted lease agreement reduces the likelihood of disputes arising and provides a solid foundation for resolving them if they do. Without a written agreement, any disagreement could become a “he-said-she-said” scenario, making it challenging to establish the truth of the matter.

A common question often asked by landlords is: “What happens if my tenants stop paying rent? Can I evict them?” The answer, typically, should be found within the lease agreement itself, which usually outlines the procedures for dealing with such breaches of contract. However, in the absence of a written agreement, landlords can resort to the Rental Housing Act, which stipulates giving tenants a 30-day notice to vacate the premises.

Equally, tenants may wonder what their rights are in cases where their landlord sells the property they’re leasing. Again, the lease agreement comes to the rescue, taking precedence over a sale agreement. In this case, the landlord is obligated to provide at least a 30-day notice to the tenant, allowing them to make necessary arrangements.

It’s also important to note that landlords do not have the right to disconnect municipal services due to late or missed payments by the tenant. Such actions are considered illegal, and tenants have the right to institute legal proceedings to restore access to these services.

In the event of damage to a rental property, the process of recovery and repair can be made smoother by a well-executed lease agreement. It’s crucial to conduct entry and exit inspections, with both the landlord and tenant present. This allows for a clear record of the property’s condition at the start and end of the lease. A tenant is granted a minimum of seven days from the occupation date to submit a snag list, providing a comprehensive overview of any existing issues.

For landlords dealing with the scenario of squatters, it’s important to follow due process as outlined in the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998. It’s illegal to hire a security company, change the locks, or restrict access to municipal services in an attempt to evict these occupants. Instead, a court order must be obtained.

But what happens when disputes arise that can’t be resolved amicably? Thankfully, there are avenues for resolution. Claims can be brought to the magistrate’s court in the district where the agreement was signed or where the person defending the action resides. Alternatively, the Rental Housing Tribunal can be engaged, which does not require legal representation and can be a cost-effective solution.

The world of lease agreements may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With a well-drafted agreement and a good understanding of your rights and responsibilities as either a landlord or a tenant, the leasing process can be a smooth and positive experience. Don’t take a chance on a handshake agreement when you can have the security of a professionally drafted lease agreement at your disposal.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

Jan Fourie

Director |  Attorney, Notary & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Jan graduated in 1974 with a five-year BA LLB degree from the University of Stellenbosch, whereafter he was admitted as an advocate and prosecuted as such in the Cape Town and Wynberg Courts. In 1974, he joined Swemmer & Levin as the Candidate Attorney of Mr Levin (founding member) and was admitted as an attorney on 7 April 1976, as a conveyancer on 11 January 1978, and as a Notary on 19 December 1984. Since 1974, he has served in various committees, including the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Vredenburg School Committee, and the Malgas Lions Club. 

Furthermore, Jan was the author of the first bilingual law book, The New Debt Collecting Procedures (Die Nuwe Skuldinvorderingsprosedures), which was used by all the Magistrate Courts throughout South Africa. With the founding of the Small Claims Court in Vredenburg, Jan served as one of the first Commissioners. He is currently based at Swemmer & Levin’s Vredenburg office and has been with our firm for more than 47 years.

Pieter Smit

Director | Attorney & Conveyancer | BA. LLB

Pieter obtained his BA Law degree from Stellenbosch University in 1995 and his LLB degree from the North-West University in Potchefstroom in 1998. He served his articles at Marais Muller Attorneys from 1998 to 1999 and was admitted as an attorney in 2000 and as a conveyancer in 2002. Pieter is the founder of PP Smit Attorneys, which opened its doors in 2004. He also became a director of Swemmer & Levin in 2006. Pieter loves the outdoors and participating in all forms of sport, including tennis, golf, fishing, spearfishing, scuba diving, and hiking. 

Johann Maree

Director | Attorney | BA. LLB

Johann matriculated at Oudtshoorn High School and attended Stellenbosch University, where he obtained his BA Law and LLB degrees. Following his studies, he worked for three years as State Prosecutor at the Magistrate’s Court in Cape Town. Johann completed his legal training with the State Attorney in Pretoria and then moved to his hometown, Oudtshoorn, where he worked as a lawyer for a year. In 1983, he finally moved to Vredenburg and joined Swemmer & Levin, where he is still practising as a director. When he is not in the office, Johann enjoys cycling and in his earlier days, he used to be a long-distance junkie.

Richard Phillips

Director | Attorney | Bcom & BProc

After matriculating at Paarl Boys’ High School, Richard completed his BCom and BProc degrees at the University of Port Elizabeth. He served his articles with Van Wyk Fouchee in Paarl and quickly developed an affinity for litigation. Richard has always had a deep love for the ocean and when he was presented with an opportunity to join Swemmer & Levin on the West Coast, he agreed without hesitation and has been with our firm since 1997. Richard specialises in general litigation and divorces. When he is not in the office or with his family, he tries to spend as much time as possible in or on the water.

Jandré Smith

Director | Attorney | LLB

Jandré grew up and matriculated in the small Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. He furthered his studies at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, obtaining his LLB degree during 2015. He completed his articles at Swemmer & Levin in 2017 and was subsequently appointed as a professional assistant. In 2020, Jandré was promoted to the position of director at the firm, where he practises in the Litigation department at our Langebaan office. When not practising law, Jandré is an avid sports fan. He has a passion for nature and enjoys camping, trail running, and mountain biking with his family.

Andre van der Walt

Director | Attorney | LLB

Andre graduated in 2015 with an LLB degree from the University of Pretoria. He later went on to obtain his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates from the University of South Africa, which allowed him to further his career in deceased estates and the drafting of wills and trusts. Andre served his articles at Barnard & Patel Attorneys under the supervision of Mr YAS Patel. After being admitted as an attorney in 2016, he continued working at Barnard & Patel Attorneys as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department.

Andre joined Van Rensburg Attorneys in 2019 and was head of the deceased estates department until 2021. He then received the opportunity to move to the West Coast, where he joined Swemmer & Levin Attorneys. Andre loves travelling and enjoys the beauty that our country has to offer with his friends, family, and loved ones.

Harmann Potgieter

Attorney | LLB

Harmann graduated in 2018 with an LLB degree from the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus. He went on to study and grow in various fields, including doing a course on the Consumer Protection Act and a course at the University of South Africa where he obtained his NQF 7 Certificate in the Administration of Deceased Estates.

Harmann completed his articles of clerkship at Swemmer & Levin under the supervision of Mr Richard Phillips. After being admitted as an attorney in 2020, Harmann continued with Swemmer & Levin as a professional assistant in the deceased estates department as well as the litigation department. He loves to study, possesses a deep curiosity about the world, and is dedicated to giving back to the community.

Carla Cloete

Attorney, Conveyancer & Notary | LLB

Carla obtained her LLB at the North West University, Potchefstroom Campus in 2015. She completed her articles in 2017 with Brits Dreyer Inc in Bellville. She is an admitted Attorney, Notary and Conveyancer. After her articles she relocated to Kimberley where she worked as a professional assistant in the Conveyancing department of Van de Wall Inc. Coming back to her Western Cape roots, she now joins the Swemmer & Levin team as a professional assistant.