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Courts rule against 660 tenants who owe more than R20m in rent

South African courts issued judgments against hundreds of people in arrears with their rent. Picture: Sergei Tokmakov/Pixabay

South African courts issued judgments against hundreds of people in arrears with their rent. Picture: Sergei Tokmakov/Pixabay

Published Aug 21, 2023


In one month alone, South Africa’s courts handed down more than R23 million worth of judgments against tenants who have not paid their rent.

This figure represents the financial struggle that renters –and consumers generally – are experiencing in a difficult economic climate.

Stats SA data for June reveals that 1,538 civil cases for rent debt were heard, with 662 orders worth R23.058m granted.

While the number of judgments is slightly down from May – by 40 cases, the value is up by almost R4m.

The PayProp Rental Index reveals that 18.4 percent of tenants were in arrears with their rental payment in the second quarter of this year, an increase from the 18 percent recorded in Q1 2023. This is the highest level seen since the end of 2021 and, although still well below the peak recorded during the pandemic, marks two straight quarters of higher arrears.

While historically high interest rates and inflation are hampering tenants’ ability to pay, PayProp says it is encouraging that inflation has started coming down, dropping to 5.4 percent in June. The South African Reserve Bank also chose to hold interest rates steady last month, raising hopes that they may now stop climbing.

“However, the long-term effects of high interest rates on tenants’ finances may not yet have filtered through completely, so arrears could get worse before they get better.”

The financial pressure being felt by consumers is seen in further Stats SA data for civil debt cases. Of all the civil judgments for debt in June, rent was only the fifth highest in terms of value and sixth in terms of the number of court orders.

By comparison, the courts issued:

  • 2,459 judgments for money lent – total value of R87.73m
  • 2,075 judgments for other debt, which includes salaries and wages, medical fund debt, sponsored debt, class and tuition debt, tax, assessment rates, and property levies – total value of R53,83m
  • 1,926 judgments for services such as municipal services (except outstanding assessment rates), plumbers, builders, mechanics, panel beaters and electricians – total value of R40.67m
  • 1,377 judgments for professional services – total value of R14.89m
  • 865 judgments for promissory notes, bills, dishonoured cheques, credit cards, and other acknowledgements of debt – total value of R40.93 million

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