Cambridge Street. An oasis of luxury and beauty tucked away in a quiet street in Benoni, Johannesburg. “It’s perfect” I said. “We must have it! Tenants will queue to live in such a magnificent place!” And so it came to be that in 2015, we bought our good friend’s deceased mother’s property.
We advertised on Gumtree and between the flurry of phone calls, were astonished to receive a call from the UK. Jack was looking for a ‘forever home’ for himself and Nicky. Sure they traveled a lot and he was British and she was South African, but one day, they’d settle down and where better than in our beautiful home. The two year lease agreement was kicked off with champagne and celebrations. A year down the line, Jack spends less and less time in South Africa. Nancy becomes quieter and quieter. Rent is consistency paid but utilities, Nancy’s part of the deal, stop being paid. Phone calls are not returned. Excuses are made. I’m unavailable. So very sick. Sorry, gone away for the weekend. Eventually, Quentin just arrives and gains access to the property. Oh. My. Word! What a mess!
Marijuana plants, broken pots, green unkept pool – complete disaster. What was once a beautiful haven had been reduced to a messy, grubby sandpit. They had turned paradise into a dirty smelly refurb! The kind most investors are on the prowl for. Noooo!!!
Wooden lattices had been torn from the walls and burnt. The koi pond – empty and the koi? Sushi? Trees chopped down and burnt in a big bonfire on the front lawn. At least 35 cats lived in the house with no litter trays leaving the carpets soaked in urine. The pool had gone to ruin, carpets were torn. The wendy house had been converted to a marijuana hot house!
Jack was mortified. “It cannot be” he said. “How could it have happened?” he wailed. “We MUST fix it, I WILL fix it” he promised. Then after a few days, he confessed to not being able to get hold of Nicky and being at a loss as to how to move forward. “No problem” we said. “Here is a breach of contract letter along with a formal notification to return everything back to original condition or face eviction.”
“I need a few days” he said. “So shocked. Need time.” “No chance” we said. “It has gone on too long and it is over. Fix it or leave.” Luckily in this instance, the tenant made it really easy for us. Lack of compliance to the notification will result in a phone call to the local cops who will happily remove them for us. Of course, that doesn’t fix the R84,000 worth of damage or bring back the trees and the koi, but at least it will get them out.
- Make sure regular monthly visits are top priority f you are managing the property yourself. All this damage took place over just 6 weeks!
- Take pictures at every visit for your records. No doubt the marijuana plants have already been removed but we have evidence and the means to at least scare them out of the house.
- Use formal eviction notifications.
- If property is not your full time occupation, pay an agent to keep on top of things. If you find the right one, the commission you pay them is priceless!
- Just because things have been going well for a year is no indication that it will continue in that line.
- Even if you develop a relationship with your tenants, treat it like a business. Compliance or eviction, there can be no middle ground.
And now the hard slog begins once they leave. How do we turn the barren, smelly wasteland back into a magical oasis? Watch this space…