Nightmare tenants

What to do when the worst happens and you are faced with the tenants from hell

You’ve screened your tenants carefully and sidestepped all the tactics a tenant might use to avoid paying rent. You have a watertight lease agreement in place. But you are still faced with the tenants from hell. A neighbour has made a complaint, or your most recent inspection revealed extensive damage to your property. Loss of income has two causes: property damage you have to repair/replace, and the property being out of service. You want to minimise both. You need to evict the tenant and return your asset to its income-producing status, quickly. Here’s what to do:

1.       Most importantly, don’t go it alone. Find an eviction attorney to help you. The process may be a long ordeal. You need experienced eviction lawyers to ensure you avoid the mistakes that provide the tenant with loopholes and add to your income loss.

2.       Get your documentation in order. Gather the rental application, tenancy agreement, entry inspection report and all record of interactions with the tenant, such as responses to maintenance requests, receipts for rent payment (see paying in cash) and receipts/estimate for work done or to be done.

3.       Give notice of entry and conduct a detailed inspection of the property. Assess the situation so you can line up contractors and possibly even uncover criminal activity. Arrange for emergency repairs, like water or sewer leaks. If you suspect health code or safety violations or criminal activity, get the police involved.

4.       Start the eviction process immediately. Don’t try to work it out with the tenant. You may settle along the way, but you can’t speed up any mandatory time lines, so don’t delay in kicking off the process.

5.       Keep calm. Don’t threaten tenants or lose your cool. As long as the tenant occupies the property, they have the upper hand. You are not legally allowed to remove their belongings or change the locks. Only the Sheriff is allowed to evict tenants. (However, you do have the right to hold their property in lieu of rent. See Landlord’s Tacit Hypothec.) With any luck, the tenant will make a plan and leave before the eviction is completed, but expressing your anger or emotion won’t accelerate that process and may delay it.

6.       Go after the tenant with the full force of the law. Don’t give up on seeing your unpaid rent or receiving compensation for damages. There is a common misconception that the tenant from hell will never have the money to make amends so you might as well write off the debt. Not all nightmare tenants are insolvent; many are just ill-mannered, evasive or downright fraudulent. And even if they don’t have the money now, the judgement lasts for a long time, and eventually the tenant may have income or assets. Cape Town eviction attorneys can help you pursue your just reparations.

Let us help you with your tenant from hell

Eviction lawyers are now in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, as well as Cape Town. So wherever your property is located, we can help you remove your nightmare tenant. We will initiate the eviction procedure and can also assist with damage claims and rent arrears.

Contact Eviction Lawyers South Africa on 086 099 5146 or email


Disclaimer The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.