Landlord's joy as court boots nightmare tenant

15 January 2017 - 15:59 By Roxanne Henderson

A Pretoria businessman‚ who defaulted on his rent and even charged overtime for fixing a water pipe in the house he was renting‚ and the lengthy battle to have him evicted‚ has left his landlord emotionally drained.

But the high court in Pretoria has answered homeowner Nomlamali Mahanjana's prayers by granting an eviction order against him.

Tenant George Webb had been skipping rental payments since taking occupancy of Mahanjana's five-bedroom house in June 2015‚ claiming this money for repairs he had done on the house.

This without Mahanjana's consent‚ as stipulated in the lease agreement‚ she says.

“This man was not paying month after month. He was just sending bills‚” the 57-year-old training consultant told TMG Digital on Friday.

Mahanjana says Webb now owes her more than R200‚000 in rent.

In court papers Webb claims he set-off amounts from the R13‚500 due to Mahanjana monthly in respect of multiple repairs she permitted him to do‚ including electrical‚ repairs to a gate motor‚ and upgrades to the pool.

In one email to the rental agent the pair worked through‚ he wrote: “The water pipe has been repaired over the past weekend and I have worked on it for 5 hours (double rate since it was in the midnight hours). And I attach my invoice hereto for settlement failure whereof I will deduct from the rental."

Mahanjana denies she authorised any repairs‚ however‚ and claims she has no evidence that the repairs were in fact done or necessary.

Mahanjana then cancelled the lease agreement and sought to have Webb evicted and replaced with a paying tenant.

“My house was literally taken over‚ [the rental agent] left me in a quagmire‚ I needed someone I can trust‚” she said‚ explaining why she enlisted legal help to retrieve her money. Without this income Mahanjana was battling to keep up with rent due on the townhouse she lives in.

In court papers Webb argued that he was in lawful occupation of the house and that it was Mahanjana that had defaulted on their agreement‚ but Judge Peter Mabuse disagreed.

Mabuse said Webb had not proven that he had received permission from Mahanjana to go ahead with any repairs and had failed to pay his rent and for municipal services.

“Webb's failure to pay monthly rental and to in fact deduct and set off from the monthly rental constitutes a material breach of the lease agreement. Mahanjana explicitly reserved herself the right to cancel the lease on breach of material condition.

“Webb has shown total disregard not only for the terms of the parties' agreement but also for Mahanjana's rights of ownership and has acted with impunity towards Mahanjana.

“A court should under no circumstances accommodate such conduct from a litigant‚” he said in the judgment. Webb‚ who has 30 days of the date the order‚ December 20‚ to return Mahanjana's house keys‚ declined to comment.

Said Mahanjana: "I will rent it out again but I'll possibly have to stay there and renovate. I haven't seen the house [inside] in more than a year.

“My spirit was so high when I heard that after the emotionally draining year‚ with a tenant who has been living in my house for free‚ the judge has ruled in my favour.

“Every time the truth is trampled down it's sure to rise again. Whatever happens‚ I am 100% sure justice will be served‚” Mahanjana said.

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