The problem with estate agent and tenant
I am a South African citizen currently living abroad and the owner of property in South Africa. I signed an agreement with a reputable estate agent to find suitable tenants for my property, and deposit the rental into my bank account. The result has been disastrous. The first tenant defaulted on payment and vacated after damaging my property. I was assured (after a bitter complaint) that the requisite due diligence would be done before another tenant was allowed in, and that there would be no repeat of the incident. I consequently signed on a new tenant approved by the agent. It only got worse. After 3 months this new tenant never paid a cent for the next 7 months. After the first default I complained to the management of the agency who assured me that they would solve the problem, to no avail. They also failed to evict this tenant and recover the rental after repeatedly requesting them to do so. Haven’t they been grossly negligent? And if so what is my legal recourse. Can I recover from the agents all the damage, arrear rental with interest and the cost incurred travelling up and down from Germany to try to resolve the issue? How about miscellaneous costs including the commission deducted by the agents on the deposit while failing to use it to cover the arrear rental? How shall I deal with this tenant from hell who still occupies the property?
The issue here is contractual. The management contract you signed with them would clearly state their obligations. And you should be able to spot where they came short. However, it seems to me, as you rightly point out that the agents were grossly negligent and would be liable for damages if their failure to act after repeated requests to cancel the lease and evict the tenant caused you loss; in which case they would have to pay you for your loss. At the least they should have referred you to an attorney to assist you with the eviction process and recovery of the arrear rental as well as any other damages when the tenant repeatedly defaulted.
Firstly you should report the matter to the Estate agents Board who require all registered agents to have a fidelity fund certificate (a kind of insurance liability scheme ). If you get no joy you should hire an attorney to sue by summons both the tenant and the agent together for your actual loss, which you will be required to prove. Another summons should ask for the eviction of the tenant and payment of arrear rental with interest. With a joint suit, if one pays, the other will be absolved. The estate agents will be the best bet for recovery of your loss.