How to deal with illegal tenant activity

02 August 2018

According to a study conducted in 2012 by Anti Drug Alliance South Africa, 5.8% of their 57,809 national respondents reported using drugs on a daily basis, with ecstasy and cocaine being the most popular drugs next to marijuana.

While most news stories paint a very scary reality about the prevalence of drug abuse in South Africa, the truth is that there is actually very limited accurate data from which to draw these conclusions. While the extent of our national drug problem is unclear, there remains the possibility, though small, that your tenant could be using drugs in the apartment you've leased to them.
Harbouring criminal activity is a punishable crime; landlords ought to seek legal advice when confronted with this situation and always be aware of the signs of drug-using tenants or run the risk of falling into trouble with the authorities.

If you do discover that your tenant is abusing substances on your property, you are legally required to report the activity to the local authorities and may draw up an eviction notice based on the discovered illegal activity. This eviction notice may be drafted even if the tenant is up-to-date with their payments and has not breeched the contract in any other form.

To discover this activity, landlords are allowed to conduct regular inspections to ensure that the property is being kept in good condition. When inspecting the home for general maintenance issues, landlords should also be on the lookout for any obvious warning signs of drug abuse.

Physical evidence

Ecstasy usually comes in a tablet form, but can also be in capsules or powder. Be vigilant for empty pill bottles in the rubbish or small zip-lock bags filled with pills. Similarly, cocaine most often comes in a powder form and can be snorted or rubbed into the gums. If snorted, the tenant might experience regular nose bleeds, so keep an eye out for trash bins filled with bloody tissues. It can also be injected into the bloodstream, so loose needles and syringes in the house are a bit of an obvious giveaway - provided your tenant doesn't have a valid medical reason for the use of these, of course.

Behavioural evidence

When interacting with the tenant be aware of the physical signs of drug abuse, such as dilated pupils, hyperactivity, paranoia, teeth grinding or jaw clenching. People on ecstasy generally have an increased sense of self-esteem and are abnormally friendly, while people on cocaine often experience hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch. If your tenant regularly displays these sorts of behaviours, speak to the neighbours to confirm if they notice similar behaviour and/or any other unusual activity in the home.

Discerning whether your tenant is abusing drugs is no easy task, though. Landlords should treat the issue sensitively and tread carefully as not to invade their tenants' right to privacy. If you have valid reasons to suspect that your tenant is using drugs on your property, then you need to be careful with how you proceed. Your tenant's relatives are more likely to be able to notice the differences in personality that drug abuse causes. If you are certain about your suspicions, then it might be worth calling their emergency contact on their lease agreement to find out if they share your concerns.

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