“Can’t afford your rent? Don’t worry, just don’t pay” is just about the worst advice someone could give you. But incredibly, with Coronavirus and the lockdown, this sort of ‘advice’ has definitely been doing the rounds.

As things stand currently there is still a moratorium on evictions during level 3 of the lockdown (initially this was only for level 4 and 5, but it was then extended to level 3). All this means is that no legal evictions will happen until level 2 – thereby this is only a short-term delay.

But you need to remember:

  1. You’ll still owe unpaid rent to your landlord. You have signed a legal agreement so your landlord could come after you and will likely win a judgement against you. This will cost you both in extra legal fees, and you will ultimately need to pay back the money anyway. You may also become blacklisted along the way.
  2. Illegal evictions are still happening. South Africa being South Africa, there are lots of people that will flaunt the rules of law. We have heard a lot of stories of landlords cutting water or electricity or even changing locks as a way to force tenants out. Technically this is illegal but it is also something that will hardly ever be followed up by the police. In other words, landlords are getting away with it. You do not want to come home one day to find you have been illegally evicted. Not only will you have no place to stay, but again you may be in for a costly legal battle.
  3. You’ll get blacklisted at Credit Bureaus. It’s becoming increasingly common for landlords to use credit bureaus like TPN (tpn.co.za) that specialise in credit profiles for tenants. Once you are blacklisted it will be a lot harder to find a landlord prepared to take you in and if they do, it will likely be at an increased price.

You need to remember as well that landlords are people too, who also have financial commitments. By not paying them what is technically owed to them, you could put them in financial trouble with their bank for example.

Bottom line: if you can’t pay your rent, then we recommend honesty as the best policy.

Be open and honest with your landlord and explain your situation. Most landlords may be happy to even discount your rent for a few months or find a solution that can work for both of you.  And at the very least, it’s the right thing to do.