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Can tenants withhold landlords’ rent if the complex’s power is cut?

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Hi, over the past weekend someone drove into the electricity substation at the complex and destroyed it. Everyone in the complex is without electricity.

Our tenants are now refusing to pay rental and some of them are threatening to book into hotels and charge this to the landlords – even though the cause of the electricity problem is not with the landlord.

What are the tenant and landlord rights in a case like this and is the landlord liable for any costs incurred by the tenant? – Barry


Hi Barry, as you correctly point out, the landlords in question are not responsible for the lack of electricity at the complex, and are therefore not in breach of their contractual obligations arising from the respective lease agreements.

The tenants are therefore not entitled to withhold rental, nor are they entitled to hold the respective landlords liable for any damages that they may incur as a result of the lack of electricity. Particularly, the tenants cannot seek to recover the costs attendant upon securing alternative accommodation (from the landlords) while the problem is being resolved.

It should, however, be noted that in sectional title schemes, the provision of electricity is usually the body corporate’s responsibility (the costs of which are then recouped from the respective owners in the scheme).

Tenants, you may not withhold rent

That being said, it is the body corporate’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate action is taken to bring an expeditious resolve to the problem, and while the body corporate cannot physically do anything to remedy the damage to the electricity substation, I am of the view that it should act in the interest of its owners and pressure the municipality to act swiftly.

Ultimately, however, it is the municipality that will be accountable for any damages that may be suffered by either the tenants in the complex, the respective owners and/or the body corporate, if it is the case that they do not act reasonably and take appropriate steps to timeously remedy the problem.

In the circumstances, pressure should therefore be placed on the municipality.

Got a burning question? Email mariette@hometimes.co.za and we’ll be sure to assist you

Who is Marlon Shevelew?

Marlon Shevelew, director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates.

Marlon Shevelew, director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates.

Marlon Shevelew is the director of Marlon Shevelew and Associates Inc. a law firm specialising in rental property, contractual, consumer and company law. The firm is the recipient of more than 45 international property law awards. Marlon is current author of PayProp’s rental documentation and preferred rental property attorney to the Institute of Estate Agents South Africa (IEASA), the Rental Housing Tribunal Western Cape and presenter of the Advanced Residential Property Law Seminar endorsed by the University of Cape Town. Marlon has featured on Cape Talk 567 and Property Matters on DStv, contributes as a guest expert to several property publications and was invited by Juta to write a book on rental property law, by LexisNexis Butterworths to edit its forms and precedents on rental property law and, on no less than three occasions, was invited by the Law Society of South Africa to lecture and train candidate attorneys and attorneys on rental property law. Marlon also created the unique Rental Retainer ClubRentDoc  and LevyDoc which offers clients affordable legal fees for rental property and sectional title related matters. Marlon is contactable on marlon@marlonshevelew.co.za anytime for more information on these services.

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