Beware of professional squatters' antics

The most sought-after residential rental properties are in the R4,500-R7,000 a month price band with around a third (35%) of all lease agreements in this segment..
The most sought-after residential rental properties are in the R4,500-R7,000 a month price band with around a third (35%) of all lease agreements in this segment..
Image: 123RF/andiafaith

One associates the word squatter generally with informal settlements. However, a new "business venture" has developed, also in affluent suburbs, where professional squatters gain access to properties under false pretences, do not pay rent and then hide behind legal principles aimed at protecting the vulnerable.

During discussions with lawyers and people renting property, I discovered that this has become a widespread phenomenon. We had a few such cases in a complex where I own a property. People especially abuse Covid-19 lately to evade payments and eviction.

Legal professionals agree that there are loopholes, protecting lawlessness above law-abiding citizens. It often leads to drastic and even illegal steps to get rid of such squatters.

The legal process alone to get rid of such squatters can take between three and six months and the whole process can take up to 12 months.

Of course, one has sympathy with honest tenants who later land in financial difficulty, but there are those fraudsters that never had the intention to pay and gain access by misleading agents and/or owners. Agents are bound by law to follow strict procedures to establish creditworthiness,

However, between a professional squatter and an unprofessional agent, you are exposed. Homeowners often only get rid of these people many months later and tens of thousands of rand poorer.

Often, older people renting out a property for an income become the victims of these fraudsters. It is time that these ruthless house hoppers be exposed and that stricter measures be implemented to protect vulnerable homeowners.

Home ownership and rental income is an important part of a healthy economy and should be protected.

Dawie Jacobs, Sterrewag, Pretoria

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