Book Review: The Law of Landlord and Tenant by Sue-Mari Viljoen

Feb 13, 2017 | 2017, Book Review, News

Reviewed by Louis Rood.

Despite its title, this book encompasses far more than the traditional common law contractual relationship between landlord and tenant.

The provision of housing, shelter, and “a roof over your head” for the homeless has become a critical political and socio-economic issue in South Africa’s new constitutional dispensation. For close to a century there has been state intervention in the housing market in various ways, such as rent control and increased tenure security to respond to demand and political pressures. More recently, government policies as a means to achieve the constitutional right of access to adequate housing has had a major impact on the contract law and property law principles relating to the private law relationship of landlord and tenant.

This comprehensive overview of the law of lease lists more than 100 South African acts, regulations, by-laws and proclamations that have shaped the local rental landscape. Comparable foreign legislation is also tabled, as is relevant domestic and foreign case law. An extensive bibliography and pertinent footnotes underpin the authorities, precedents and resources upon which the text relies.

The distinguished author, Sue-Mari Viljoen B Comm LLB LLD, Associate Professor of the Department of Public, Constitutional and International Law at the University of South Africa, has marshalled the extensive subject matter in masterful style to create an invaluable source of reference for legal practitioners, property owners and developers, financial institutions, local authorities, provincial and national housing departments, and nongovernmental organisations dealing with the drastic shortage and provision of housing in urban and rural areas.

Separate, well-organised and lucid chapters place the nature of the landlord/tenant relationship in context, analyse the intricacies of that relationship, its creation and termination and deal in detail with the respective obligations of the parties.

The notes on relevant foreign law which are to be found in suitable places throughout the text are instructive in illuminating the relevant aspects of South African law. The manner and extent to which landlord-tenant law can be regulated to reach specific socio-economic goals and political aims is illustrated by the author’s observation:

“The tenant’s obligation to return the property upon termination of the lease as well as the actual expiration of the relationship has undergone radical change in the constitutional dispensation through both the introduction of new laws and judicial developments to provide greater tenure protection for private and public sector tenants. These developments are constitutionally inspired to ensure a more welfareorientated approach to the eviction of vulnerable groups.”

Accolades are also due to publishers Juta and volume editor, Distinguished Professor AndrĂ© van der Walt, South African Research Chair in Property Law at Stellenbosch University, who has himself made a significant contribution as author to Juta’s Property Law Library, most recently Introduction to the Law of Property (with GJ Pienaar), Law of Property Casebook for Students, and The Law of Servitudes (2016).