Only an attorney can evict

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Social media makes us all well aware of the problems others are facing – and some of those stories are heartbreaking. Desperate pleas for alternate accommodation for those who are being evicted from their homes have become fairly common on various community pages and make for extremely sad reading.

Disturbingly, many of those commenting on the posts slander the landlords, who are regarded as heartless, money-grabbing animals. However, as we all know, there are always two sides to a story and seldom, if ever, do these tenants discuss when last they paid the rent.

While those who have been evicted are undoubtedly to be pitied, they have in most cases ended up in this predicament after ignoring repeated requests for rent payments, first from the landlord and later from the court. They have also in many cases probably failed to respond to a court summons. They may have had six months or more of free occupation, during which the landlord most likely had to cover the monthly bond repayments without the rental income upon which he had relied.

Follow the law

Pointing this out recently, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, said that the Prevention of Illegal Occupation Act (also called the Pie Act) “leans over backwards” to alleviate suffering for the tenant. The landlord himself in some cases actually has to identify alternative, similarly priced premises to which the tenant could apply.

With commercial property, however, the situation is very different. Here, as was shown in a recent Gauteng High Court case, Denneboom Service Station CC and ANOTHER versus Phanyame, the tenant, Chiloane, was renting a commercial service station which was then bought by Phanyame, but he (Chiloane) refused to leave the premises – and on losing his case in the Gauteng High Court then appealed to the Constitutional Court.

This court confirmed the eviction of the business premises but ruled that Chiloane’s occupation of a home nearby, also bought by the complainant, could not be upheld until the provisions of the Pie Act had been fully complied with.

Don’t evict illegally

“However you assess this case,” said Bill, “it would appear that the tenant by an illegal game was able to obtain occupancy of both premises long after the landlord wanted to take them back. The fact that this is possible confirms the need for exceptionally careful tenant selection on all occasions and in our experience, this calls for the input of an experienced rental estate agent.”

There’s little doubt that most tenants are very aware of their rights and will often “abuse” these in order to stay put for as long as possible. However, landlords who attempt to take the law into their own hands and illegally evict a non-paying tenant often end up paying a high price for their actions. It is strongly advised that anyone who is having an issue with an erring tenant contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to start the eviction ball rolling.

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