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What if my tenant wrecks my investment property?

By  Neil Vorster 

investment property Is owning an investment property a good idea? Just how good is the buy to let market? What if my tenant wrecks my property investment?

I hear these questions all the time.

Underlying these questions is fear of the unknown. People are saying, “what are the traps? If it is so good why isn’t everyone doing it?”

 What is the truth of investment property?

For the man in the street, investing in property involves overcoming a myriad of fears and misconceptions. Research has shown people to exclude themselves from massive opportunities through belief in ungrounded fears.

So, yes, a tenant can wreck your investment property! While this is possible, with proper management and a good lease agreement this problem can be mostly mitigated. Primarily, one has to view the “potential problem” in the light of the truth.

The truth is, despite your best attentions you may experience the fabled “bad tenant”. How bad can it be? Let us have a look at the damage he can cause and quantify it in relation to the rental and the capital growth of the property.

Assume we are talking about a 2 bedroom townhouse in a good area of Johannesburg where property values are growing at about 8% per annum (in 2013). That is, your R600 000 townhouse with a rental of R5 000 per month will grow in value by R48 000 over next twelve months.

How bad could the damage be?


Your “bad tenant” can…Repair costs.Relative cost
wreck your carpetsR5 000 to replace 1 month’s rental
trash your stoveR5 000 to replace 1 month’s rental
trash your kitchenR10 000 to replace kitchen units 2 month’s rental
mess up your wallsR2 500 to repaintHalf a month’s rental


The damage might be shocking when you see it, but look at the numbers. Should it stop you from investing in the first place? Especially when you realise that your unit will grow in value by R48 000 per annum—which is nearly 10 months rental?

 Aha !

My “aha” moment occurred when I realised that even if my tenant trashes my investment property, I still win. Investing in townhouses is a great idea and the investment returns are awesome.

In addition to that, good property management mitigates against most of these abovementioned eventualities, thus making excessive property damage a rare thing indeed.

…and as they say in the cheap midnight TV ads, that’s not all!

A good managing agent has direct links with the respective credit agencies which becomes a powerful weapon in the landlord’s arsenal. The total cost of damages are totalled and the ex tenant is billed accordingly. Failure to pay will result of a default or judgement on his credit record.

In our experience the defaulting ex tenant hastens to pay when he next tries to get credit. Gone are the days when a tenant can trash your property and move on to do the same to the next one.

 Don’t be caught out

For more information on this subject,

  • buy to let property investment advice,
  • or help with property management,

Click here, for a free subscription to Organic Growth to get advice and answers.

That leaves me with a question or two. Please answer and comment freely below and share on the social media buttons provided.

  • Have you had a “bad tenant” and what did you do?
  • Has this caused you to stop investing?


About the Author Neil Vorster

Neil Vorster is a property investment coach, investment author and co-founder of Organic Growth. Aerobatics pilot and cycling nut.

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Please leave your comments and questions below
  • True Neil. It is all about placing the correct tenant from day 1. I had a great mentor who taught me the following:

    1. Let them complete an application for, copy of ID, copy of latest payslip and 3 months bank statements. Crosscheck all of that and look at the detail, especially their bank account to see if they can afford it.

    2. Most important of all, meet them there personally to try and judge their character and behaviour. You pick up small things such as no eye contact, being late with no excuse, having an attitude etc. Rather take a vacancy than risking it.

    3. Only sign month-to-month agreements. With the NCA a tenant has 20 days to rectify a default. If rectified you cannot terminate a termed lease. If month to month you may terminate for what ever reason you see fit.

    4. Make use of TPN Credit bureau to check and manage your tenants. Their “welcome/warning” letter given to a new tenant has served me wonders.

    My wife and i have had great tenants who became friend eventually. We sometimes buy our tenants flowers for their birthdays which they obviously appreciate. And most important, we give them the best quality accommodation they can find in the area.

    We havent had any damage nor vacancies for the last 5 years. Dont just milk your tenants for your own benefit. Plough back into their lives also.

    Happy investing.

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