short term letting

How to manage short-term letting in your body corporate?

Short term letting is a controversial topic in sectional title for various reasons, one of which involving the uncertainty as to what is allowed and what is not.

Body corporate trustees have been at loggerheads with owners, trying to get decisive rulings via the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) to solve their disputes. Regrettably, the CSOS adjudications have varied widely in their outcomes, leaving all parties unsure of their rights and the restrictions relating to short-term letting. As there is not yet a high court ruling to refer to, owners who want to short-term let their apartments need to familiarise themselves with the rules of their scheme first.

Establishing the status quo
Sectional title schemes have to comply with the prescribed conduct and management rules as provided in the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011. Body corporate rules can be amended by members of the scheme in a general meeting.
Owners who want to short-term let their apartments should start by asking their managing agent for an updated and registered set of rules. The rules will indicate if there are any restrictions in the scheme regarding short term letting. Rules that rely on the prescribed rules, i.e. rules that have not been changed, will not have any restrictions.

How do you proceed?
A sectional title scheme is a communal living environment where residents are expected to live in harmony. As short-term visitors have no longer term interest in keeping their neighbours happy, they are more likely to cause a disturbance by making a noise, having parties and not considering the other residents in the scheme.
One of the biggest objections to short term letting is the security risk posed by a continuous flow of different visitors to apartments. It is very hard to keep a complex secure or to know when anybody is trespassing when you have unfamiliar people entering and exiting the property all the time.

Owners must take appropriate action to ensure other residents are not inconvenienced by their short-term letting activities. We suggest the following pro-active measures:

1. Understand and read the rules of your scheme.

2. Adhere to the rules, especially if they have been amended to prevent short term letting.

3. Discuss your intentions to short term let with the trustees and your neighbours, and take their concerns into consideration before embarking on short term rental.

4. Ensure that your tenants have a copy of the scheme rules and are aware of restrictions if the rules have been amended.

5. Employ a reputable and experienced short-term letting agent.

6. Insist that your letting agent has a fine or penalty system in their letting agreement should your tenant transgress any rules.

7. Insist that your letting agent charges a substantial deposit and does a screening of the tenant before accepting any bookings.

8. Charge a rental that will attract the caliber of tenant you want to rent your apartment to.

9. Take an active role in the management of your rentals and the vetting of tenants.

Owners in sectional title schemes are legally entitled to generate an income from their apartments by renting it out long or short term but their tenants do not have the right to inconvenience or be a nuisance to other residents.
A communal living environment requires respect and tolerance. While legislation and CSOS rulings are not as clear as they should ideally be, owners who want to short-term let their apartments should ensure that residents are aware of their intentions before putting their apartment up for short term letting.