How to determine whether dual occupancy is right for you if you want to save money

Homeowners should carefully consider whether dual occupancy is the right move for them. File picture: Pexels

Homeowners should carefully consider whether dual occupancy is the right move for them. File picture: Pexels

Published Mar 14, 2024


The growing cost of living, along with a scarcity of affordable housing alternatives, has prompted many South Africans to explore alternate ways to make homeownership more feasible.

Dual-occupancy is a growing trend in which homeowners rent out a piece of their property or opt to co-own a property with a friend or family member.

Prior to going this route, Adrian Goslett, the regional director and chief of executive of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, cautions homeowners to carefully consider whether dual occupancy is the right move for them, as these agreements become legally binding and difficult to exit if a homeowner suddenly realises that this is not what they want.

Before entering a dual occupancy agreement, RE/MAX of Southern Africa offers the following advise:

Understand all legal liabilities

Before proceeding with a tenancy or co-ownership, ensure that you fully grasp the legal implications of the arrangement.

For example, as a landlord, you will be responsible for paying for repairs if anything breaks within the tenanted areas, and you will also be accepting the risk of dealing with a defaulting tenant.

As a co-owner of a property, you are still responsible for loan repayments even if the person with whom you co-signed fails to make their half of the payment.

Understand the cancellation policy

Nobody ever goes into an arrangement with the expectation that they will require an early out.

However, it is good to be prepared for any situation, including understanding what steps to take if either side wishes to discontinue the dual occupancy early.

A lease agreement will explicitly define the steps for ending the lease; if not, see your rental agency for help. However, co-ownership is far more expensive and difficult to exit.

Either you both agree to sell, or one of you takes complete control of the property by buying out the other. In these situations, it is important to get professional legal counsel from a transferring lawyer.

Consider your long-term plans

Because these agreements are legally binding, you should think about your future intentions before making a final choice, as they cannot be reversed immediately.

If you are renting out a piece of your house, evaluate if you will need that room in the near future, perhaps for a growing family or even for ageing parents.

If you co-own with a buddy, think about how your lives could alter in the mid- to near-future; if you’re both single, what would happen if one of you married or had children?

Lay down the rules

The easiest way to sour any dual occupancy relationship is to have no rules or standards in place to regulate how you will both coexist on the property.

Even if you co-own the place, it is critical to establish a set of written rules that can be referenced if a disagreement occurs.

A lease agreement may include restrictions such as no dogs and no smoking, as should your agreement with anyone you choose to co-own the property.

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