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Wednesday Oct 08, 2014

'Screen tenants for rent security'

A landlord is not obliged or cannot be compelled to let. If a person decides to rent out a property, then he or she must follow the relevant laws.

One of the provisions of the rental law and the country's constitution is not to discriminate. In screening tenants, a landlord will eventually settle for a tenant who is considered reliable. The landlord will find a tenant who may be a model tenant, but never a perfect tenant.

It is understandable that landlords want reliable tenants since they will be handing over limited rights to the tenants, which, in law, will restrict the landlords' rights as owners.

The starting point is chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights that states everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

Neither the state nor individuals may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

The screening of a tenant must not be used as a pretext to discriminate. Discrimination based on nationality and culture, for example, would be a violation of the constitution and the Rental Housing Act.

This is what happened during apartheid, especially with the Group Areas Act. It was precisely the reasoning of the colonialists and later the apartheid founders who engineered the notion of superior race to separate people. Designated areas were created for people to reside (own or rent) with their 'own kind'.

In fact, Cape Town and Durban literally mapped out townships in the 1940s. Bantustans were created because of 'cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences' and 'nationality'.

One cannot generalise the behaviour of tenants and then group them into 'nationality allowed', 'nationality not allowed', 'culture allowed', 'culture not allowed', 'gays not allowed', Muslims and Christians allowed', 'Jews and Hindus not allowed'.

Screening a tenant must be used to establish if the prospective tenant is reliable as a rent payer using, for instance, history of rental payment and employment.

Inherent in an advert for a male tenant or the reasoning or justification that males can perform security tasks, is that women cannot provide security.

There are many reported instances of burglaries with males present on the properties. At least, that is how a person may challenge the advert that seeks a male who can provide security to the property to be let.

Some people still live in the past when certain laws allowed discrimination. They are unable to sever the link.

House rules, management and conduct rules discriminate against and violate the rights of owners and tenants of sectional title and share block schemes.

The discrimination against a couple having a child appears to be one of the worst phobias to captivate rule-makers of sectional title and share block schemes. Any approach to address the anxiety of a couple or a family with management results in a confrontation. There is a genuine fear that the scheme will fail if one changes the (autocratic) rules.

Landlords and letting agents must familiarise themselves with the laws to avoid criminal and civil action.

Dr Sayed Iqbal Mohamed
Chairman, Organisation of Civic Rights.
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