In SA, many home-owners have made money by providing short-term leasing of holiday cottages, apartments and houses. Before listing your property on platforms like Airbnb, however, you need to do sufficient research to find out if it’s legal for you to offer short-term rentals and how the income will be taxed.

According to attorney Marlon Shevelew, Director at Marlon Shevelew & Associates Inc, short-term leasing models such as Airbnb pose legal challenges for those who own sectional-title properties where the conduct of owners and/or occupiers is regulated and governed by the scheme’s management and rules of conduct.

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In terms of Management Rule 38, units may not be let out to any tenant or occupier for a period of less than three months and short-term letting of any nature is prohibited. “The justification for prohibiting short-term letting is generally a security matter, or because of short-term lessors causing a nuisance,” Shevelew says.

If an owner breaches the regulation, the complex’s body corporate can approach the court for an interdict compelling the cancellation of the lease. If the owner still persists, contempt of court, a fine or even imprisonment is possible, he says.

Property issues

For those hosting guests in their own home, it’s important to set out house rules, such as what space and amenities are for the tenant’s use and how they’re expected to behave during their stay. Be considerate of your neighbours and let them know of your Airbnb arrangements to avoid conflicts, as the constant coming and going of people from your property may be cause for security concerns.

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Deon Botha of RentMaster says Airbnb hosts have access to verification of potential guests by providing a government-issued identity document and telephone number. “For safety reasons, we recommend that home-owners allow access to their property if they’ve been rated by at least two other hosts on Airbnb.

“In the South African context, it’s even more important to adhere to strict acceptance criteria and to actively look out for fraudulent guests. Practically speaking, this means steering clear of last-minute, rushed bookings on a Friday afternoon when no identity documents or host reviews are available,” advises Botha.

Michelle Dickens, MD of Tenant Profile Network, says that unlike a normal lease agreement, there’s no need to credit-check guests, as payment is received upfront for the booking and Airbnb only releases the money to the host the day after the guest’s taken occupation of the property. “A host can choose to add a security deposit and a cleaning fee to the amount that’s paid upfront by the guest,” she explains.

By Denise Mhlanga