So can't I move into my new flat at the end of the month because of lockdown?
Can tenants move into and out of residential or business units at month-end next week, given the Covid-19 lockdown which comes into effect at midnight on Thursday?
Cape Town attorney Marlon Shevelew, who specialises in property law, thinks not.
“The lockdown regulations as they are currently worded appear to prevent any relocation,” he said.
“People need to stay put where they are; landlords will not be able to enforce leases as they would in the normal course.”
“I’m in that predicament,” said AndeeM_ on Twitter. “Not sure what to do, the current tenant called today to say he can’t move out.”
@AK_SosaGBE said he was hoping to move into his new house before Thursday, “but the current tenants say they’re applying for some kind of concession through the estate agency that’s handled their moves.”
Somerset West-based estate agent Dinis Martins said his agency had negotiated lease extensions with landlords.
“We’ve tried to get everyone to stay put for another month and then assess after the lockdown is over.”
If a tenant’s lease ends during lockdown, the landlord won’t be able to move new tenants in, Shevelew said.
“For the same reason that tenants will not be able to move out, a landlord will not be able to give vacant occupation to new tenants.
“This is an example of the lockdown making it impossible for a landlord to perform in terms of the lease concluded. In such cases the landlord will be released from performing.”
And here’s a worrying scenario: if your geyser bursts, can you have it replaced?
Professional and artisanal services are exempted from the lockdown to provide support to the Covid-19 response, and essential and critical business continuity services. “But it doesn’t appear that plumbers will be able to assist private clients during the lockdown,” Shevelew said.
Tenant evictions probably also won’t go ahead during lockdown, he added.
Asked whether landlords will be able to enforce their leases should tenants find it financially challenging to pay their rent in the wake of Covid-19, Shevelew said it will not excuse tenants from meeting their rental commitments in terms of their leases.
On Tuesday, trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel published a special gazette with exemption regulations that enable shopping mall tenants who are competitors to meet and co-ordinate activities; something which competition law usually prohibits.
The three-week lockdown, forcing retailers to close, will decimate their cash flow.
Only those stores which sell food and basic goods will be allowed to remain open.
The special dispensation will allow the forced-to-close to negotiate with shopping mall owners about relief measures such as payment holidays and rent discounts, as well as limitations on evictions. It applies to these retailers: those dealing with “personal care functions”, such as hair and beauty salons; restaurants; clothing and footwear outlets; and home textile shops.