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Tag Archive: eviction

Can a tenant win an eviction?

Can a tenant win an eviction?

It depends. Usually no, but sometimes they can.

When can they?

When the landlord has not followed the legal eviction procedure.

Can you give examples of this?

When the landlord does not properly deliver written notices, otherwise known as eviction letters, to the tenant, before going to court.

When the landlord does not make out a case in his eviction application that it is just and equitable for the tenant to be forcibly removed from the property.

When the landlord unjustifiably infringes upon the tenant’s rights.

What kind of tenant rights can the landlord infringe for a tenant to win an eviction?

Their rights given to them in terms of a valid lease agreement, the overriding laws such as the Rental Housing Act, some times the Consumer Protection Act, and ultimately, the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act.

Are there any other property laws that could apply to help the tenant win an eviction?

Yes, depending on the legal relationship between the landlord and tenant, other laws can apply, such as ESTA.

When does ESTA apply?

See this article for more.

What can a landlord do to ensure he wins against the tenant?

Eviction law is not about winning or losing. It is about striking a balance between opposing legal interests in the most fair and equitably way possible.

Does this mean that you are not willing to fight for a landlord to get their property back?

Definitely not.

How so?

It just means that one must appreciate the underlying purpose of eviction law, in the resolution of the eviction equation.

What is the underlying purpose?

Where a tenant does not fix their breach of the lease, the property owner deserves to get his property back from the tenant, but needs to do so in a legal way, by following the legal eviction process.

That way, he will always “win” in terms of regaining possession his property, but done in a way that appreciates any vulnerability and humanitarian concerns.

How does a landlord appreciate these concerns?

He does not need to actively do this per se, but needs to passively observe this, by appointing a legal advisor and representative who can apply the laws designed to respect these concerns.

What does then mean for the landlord?

He needs to appoint a specialist eviction attorney who can apply the eviction laws in the most efficient way possible, to accelerate the inevitable outcome of getting his property back by order of court. This way time, energy and stress can be best saved.

How long does an eviction take?

In general, it can take 6 weeks to 3 months, if all goes perfectly. Longer, if there are delays in the process, by role players along the way like the court, or sheriff, and if documents go missing.

What if the tenant opposed the process?

Then the hearing date will be pushed out by a month or two (depending on the individual court queue).

What can be done to curb the delays by the tenant opposing the process?

A legal strategist needs to be appointed to proactively manage the opposed process in a way to encourage timeous settlement of the matter out of court.

How does he do this?

There are leverage points in the litigation process/procedure that can be used to a litigators advantage; there is also a cost benefit analysis that can be put to the tenant – if they can be persuaded that they can save themselves a legal cost order by not opposing the eviction, then the matter can be settled in a shorter time by agreement, savings costs.

Who can we contact to get help with legal advice, strategy and representation with the eviction equation?

You can contact us at SD Law, as we are a law firm, operating nationally, offering landlords and tenants legal advice, and representation with the eviction process.

How do I get help?

The first best step is to call us on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or email us at sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to set up an initial hour consultation by phone.

Then we can explain the exact process that needs to be followed for a landlord or a tenant to successfully resolve the eviction equation.

Any final thoughts?

Like a divorce, there are no winners per se in evictions; the issues usually stem from social and economic problems.

These are what the eviction laws and processes are designed to redress, that is, in a just and equitable way for all.

This means following the eviction legal process efficiently and professionally: that is, with assertion, not aggression, and ultimately: with compassion, not complacency.

Then landlord and tenant can both be set free.

Simon Dippenaar, Attorney of the High Court, Founder of SD Law South Africa.

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Time to hit the “pause” button on evictions?

Elsewhere in the world legislation is ensuring tenants don’t lose their homes due to COVID 19.

Time to hit the "pause" button on evictions. Eviction Lawyers

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. COVID 19 is making everyone anxious for their health. Although the vast majority of patients recover, in South Africa we have a very vulnerable population and a weak health system, so widespread infection will wreak havoc in families and communities. Furthermore, those who have recovered describe the illness as extremely unpleasant, leaving them very weak for a considerable time. It’s to be avoided at all costs, hence the severe restrictions we are all living under and the lockdown that we are about to begin.

Beyond the literal threat the virus presents to health, up and down the country businesses have been closing, particularly in hospitality, and now all activities but essential services must cease while we all stay indoors for three weeks. If employers can’t afford to pay wages, employees will be sent home with no income. How, then, are they meant to pay their bills, including rent?

Some lenience on loan re-payments

As of 23 March, all the major banks have announced some provision for hardship caused by COVID 19. Standard Bank has announced a three-month payment holiday for small businesses with a turnover of less than R20 million, and for full-time students with student loans, to start on 1 April and run until 30 June. For other loans, including mortgage bonds, customers are urged to contact the bank. The other major banks are also assessing the situation and either inviting customers to contact them individually or waiting to see if they need to take more radical steps.

What about tenants?

Homeowners with bonds can hopefully expect some mercy, but what about tenants with rent to pay? In places where the pandemic has a tighter grip, legislative measures have been put in place to protect renters. Around the world, cities in the US and countries including Spain have temporarily halted evictions in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

In England and Wales, the Housing Secretary has said, “Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.” Up in Scotland, similar action is proposed. The Housing Minister said, “No landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus and we are actively considering how best this can be addressed.”

A spokesperson for a tenants’ association said: “Up and down Scotland, tenants are facing not just a major health crisis, but the prospect of destitution and homelessness too. As their workplaces begin to shut their doors, it is hard to see how tenants who are already struggling to make ends meet will be able to pay their rent. It is unconscionable that anyone should even have to worry about being evicted from their home at this time.”

The situation here in South Africa is similar, and arguably will be worse, given our levels of poverty and disadvantage. At SD Law we support the 31 NGOswho have come together to appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa, his Cabinet and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to follow in the footsteps of our international counterparts and forbid evictions during the current crisis. After all, in a lockdown, it makes no sense at all to put people out on the streets.

Stop the “ejectment” if not the eviction

We understand that there may be situations where the eviction is not only legitimate, but long overdue. Perhaps a tenant has significant arrears with rent or has damaged the property. We’re not advocating for the entire eviction process to be overturned in these circumstances. A fair and just procedure can be resumed in due course, when life returns to normal. But this is not the time to execute a warrant of ejectment, i.e. to put the tenant out.

Look after good tenants

We would also urge landlords to exercise leniency in the case of good tenants who suddenly cannot pay their rent because they have lost their jobs or income due to COVID 19. If a tenant has a history of timely payments and full compliance with the terms of the lease, they should be treated compassionately and a repayment plan worked out when the crisis is past.

From a purely commercial perspective, even if the appeal to our shared humanity is in vain, evicting a good tenant because they can’t pay their rent is unlikely to result in replacement income. No one is looking to move right now. And a property could sit empty far longer than the time it takes for the existing tenant to recover. Good tenants are worth looking after.

Update 27 March:

In the government gazette released last night (26/3/2020), all evictions and execution of attachment orders, both movable and immovable, including the removal of movable assets and sales in execution are suspended with immediate effect for the duration of the lockdown.

Update 26 March:

As we head into a lockdown that will straddle two months, you may be wondering what will happen if a lease expires during the three-week period? In short, no movement is allowed. A tenant cannot be forced to leave a rented property even if another tenant is lined up to move in. The incoming tenant also won’t be able to vacate their current premises. The extraordinary measures in place (see the government gazette for full list of restrictions) take precedence over other contracts in place, such as leases. Technically, landlords and tenants can pick up where they left off as soon as the lockdown is over, but in reality it may be easier for everyone simply to extend the lease by one month and push the moving-out or moving-in date back to 1 May. Everyone in the country is in the same situation.

Rent should still be paid for any occupancy beyond the lease expiry. If  the tenant is in financial difficulties, then a payment plan should be negotiated.

We’ve mentioned a “pause” on evictions to protect tenants who may be financially compromised as a result of COVID 19. But what about evictions that were already scheduled before this crisis emerged? Although the gazette does not mention eviction specifically, it is fair to assume that no movement means no movement. In effect, normal life is put on hold – paused – for three weeks. it will resume on 17 April.

Contact Eviction Lawyers for help

We are eviction lawyers in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  We act for both landlords and tenants and uphold the rights of each to a fair and satisfactory tenancy. In these uncertain times, we appeal to everyone to act with empathy and compassion. If you are worried about your tenancy or your tenants, contact Simon at Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email   sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

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Housing giant denies illegally evicting Rondebosch tenant

Cape Town – Social housing giant Communicare has dismissed claims that a Rondebosch tenant was unlawfully evicted.

Karabo Makgoane, who lived at the Welverdiend complex, claimed that she was unlawfully evicted by Communicare because the organisation was supposed to give her alternative accommodation.

“I have been living in the Welverdiend flat since 2017. I was retrenched and told the landlord, but he said that under no circumstances would they help me. I was then paying half of my rent until October 2018. I got served a court letter, and my first court appearance was in 2019. I did not have a legal representative.

“On May 2, I was evicted by a magistrate, who said I could leave on November 30 because of my circumstances. I was expecting Communicare to get back to me regarding alternative accommodation, as was requested by the magistrate.

“On November 30 nobody had said anything to me. I stayed because I was expecting Communicare to tell me about alternative accommodation arrangements,” said Makgoane.

Communicare spokesperson Michelle Matthee said the company had tried to accommodate her when she fell into arrears.

“The tenant has considerable arrears, well over R100 000, arising from non-payment of rental. The tenant also did not uphold previous payment agreements. After the court heard the matter, the eviction order was issued on May 21. As is reflected in the court order, Communicare was not instructed to find alternative accommodation for Ms Makgoane.

“The issue with Ms Makgoane began 18 months ago. We eventually had no other option but to hand the issue over to the courts. After a lengthy court process, on February 18, the sheriff of the court carried out an eviction of Ms Makgoane, as ordered by the court,” said Matthee.

Reprinted from the Cape Times – 2020-02-21. Emphasis/links by SD Law.

If you are not sure if your eviction is fair, we can help

We are eviction lawyers in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and we believe the landlord-tenant relationship should be built on trust. We act for both landlords and tenants and uphold the rights of each to a fair and satisfactory tenancy. If you are facing an eviction and you are not sure of your rights, contact Simon at Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

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Relief for destitute people evicted from Klein Akker farm

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers and Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha brought some relief to nearly 100 destitute people after they were evicted from the farm Klein Akker near Wallacedene in Kraaifontein.

They have been living in a temporary place for more than two months, with no food or water because the pumps on the land had been stolen.

Some of them lived in tents which were affected by the recent heavy rains. The families of Klein Akker farm resided on the farm for two decades. They are now housed at the state-owned Mesco farm.

Resident Max Geza said: “I am very happy now because I will at least have water to drink and food to eat. We had to go and fetch water very far from here, and some of the residents are old and ill.”

Skwatsha said: “I am here today because I have to provide basic needs to these destitute people who do not have houses. They were moved to this place after they were evicted from their original place. Working with Gift of the Givers, we provided them with basic needs such as blankets, food and sanitation. I would not be able to provide the time frame to provide them with housing, but I would love to get them decent houses, but for now they are safer than before and we will slowly improve their lives.”

Gift of the Givers director Badr Kazi said: “We provided them with food, blankets and hygienic stuff, and if these people are going to be here for a little longer, then we will continue to support them for a while, and we hope the government fast tracks the housing issue for these people.”

Originally featured on iol.co.za

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm in Cape Town, now operating in Gauteng and Durban, of specialised eviction attorneys, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction lawyers on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or info@sdlaw.co.za if you have been evicted unlawfully.

Further reading:

Klein Akker Evictions

Just and Equitable Evictions in South Africa?

Farm Dweller Evictions – a Fair Process

Evicted Families Stuck in Paarl Caravan Park for a Year

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Utility bills – who’s responsible and how to manage them

The end of a tenancy is not the time to discover your tenant has not been paying the municipal bills or “rates” – property taxes and utility bills like electricity, water and sewerage, etc. At that stage you are faced with the difficult task of trying to recover the money. It is far better to ensure due process is in place from the outset of the occupancy to cover all bills that will accrue to the property. This is best done via a written lease agreement, which sets out the terms and conditions of the rental and can be as detailed as you like, clearly stating the responsibilities of tenant and landlord for every cost. For example, you may wish to differentiate between utilities like water and electricity and “add-ons” like WiFi and garden maintenance. 

Rental Housing Amendment Act

Remember that when the Rental Housing Amendment Act comes into force it will be a requirement to have a written lease. If you don’t have one now, it’s time to draw one up. You will only have six months from when the Act becomes law to comply. This is your chance to incorporate all these details into your rental agreement with your tenant. 

Prepaid electricity meters

One of the simplest ways to avoid disputes over electricity bills is to install a a prepaid electricity meter. This is becoming more and more common in rental properties. The landlord has the comfort of knowing the electricity is paid for, and the tenant has control over consumption and can make economies if necessary, an option not available if the rent is “all-in”, i.e. the landlord pays the bills and allows for the costs in the rent charged (see below). Many municipalities no longer allow electricity accounts to be in any name other than the registered property owner, so a prepaid meter is a good compromise. The landlord remains the responsible person, and the tenant has no choice but to pay for use. If the account is not in the owner’s name, perhaps because the tenant has been in situ for a long time, it is a good idea to have the account transferred, as the owner will be held liable regardless.

Other utility bills

If the municipal account is still in the tenant’s name and the tenant is responsible for payment, the landlord can ask the tenant for proof of payment each month. If this is not forthcoming or there is any suspicion of arrears, you as registered owner are entitled to ask the municipality for a copy of the account. If you exercise diligence in ensuring these accounts are up to date, you will avoid any nasty shocks at the end of the rental period. 

“All-in” rent

An option some landlords prefer is to take on the liability for all bills (sometimes with some exceptions as noted above). The rent is then adjusted to accommodate this. This is known as an “all-in rent”. There are pros and cons to this arrangement for both parties. For the tenant, it can be helpful, certainly in terms of budgeting, to have one monthly fee to pay. The cost of living in the property won’t vary summer to winter with changing consumption patterns. For those on a tight budget this can be a real boon. The downside, from the tenant’s perspective, is that there is no financial benefit to be gained from minimising consumption. (And this may lead to waste, a downside for the landlord.) The tenant also does not have any utility bills in their name, which can be a problem when address verification is needed for credit or other applications. However, the lease will usually suffice.

For the landlord, there are no concerns about unpaid bills. Everything is under their control. However, the adjusted rent is based on past average consumption. If the tenant is wasteful in their use of water, gas or electricity, the owner can be faced with a bill in excess of what has been included in the rent. The solution to this is a clause in the lease agreement stating that the landlord reserves the right to make a surcharge should consumption exceed reasonable amounts (“reasonable” can be difficult to define so the wording may refer to a figure or percentage). The landlord will also bear the burden of rate hikes, as they cannot increase the rent until the lease is due for renewal.

The alternative – charging utility bills to the tenant as they arise

A more transparent, albeit more labour-intensive, solution is to charge the utilities to the tenant as they arise. This means the landlord will always carry one month’s obligation for these costs and may still be left with unpaid bills at the end of the tenancy, but any liability will be limited and should be covered by the deposit. If this process is adopted, property owners should remember that tenants have a right to be treated fairly and equitably. It is good practice to:

  • Provide the tenant with copies of bills and meter readings
  • Give the tenant a formal invoice for their share of the costs as set out in the lease agreement
  • Avoid charging the tenant an estimate if the meter reading has not been done for the period. Many Rental Housing Tribunals do not support this practice. It is usually possible to email a photo of the meter reading to the municipality and request an accurate bill
  • Provide the tenant with a monthly statement and keep a record of all communications pertaining to utilities (this is particularly important for transparency where the rent is all-in)

It’s important to note that a property owner may not charge property taxes to the tenant. The cost can be factored into the rent, but may not be passed on to the tenant in a literal sense. 

Whether you opt for an all-in rent or charging the tenant on a PAYG basis, this can be a workable solution, particularly for a property owner who has been saddled with unpaid bills in the past. At the end of the lease, it is reasonable to deduct any amounts owing from the deposit, and this should not trigger a dispute, particularly if clearly stated in the lease.

Landlords may not…

Finally, if you hold control over power and water, it may be tempting to use this as leverage if your tenant fails to pay rent or breaches the lease conditions in any other way. Don’t do this! It is unlawful to disconnect your tenant’s electricity in the event of non-payment of rent. Disconnection without a court order is illegal. If your tenant is in arrears with rent, you must follow the correct eviction procedure as set out in the Rental Housing Act and Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and give them an opportunity to rectify the breach. 

Seek the guidance of an expert eviction lawyer

If you need help to draw up a lease agreement, screen tenants or negotiate utility bill arrangements with your tenant, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence. Eviction lawyers Johannesburg and Cape Town are experts in rental property and will help you select the best option for your circumstances. We will ensure your tenancies run smoothly, with no nasty shocks waiting in store for you.

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Red Ants continue to disregard due process of law

Illegal evictions and fatalities are calling cards of Red Ants

At Cape Town eviction lawyers Simon Dippenaar & Associates (SDLAW), we were angered and saddened to learn of recent illegal actions by the Gauteng security company Red Ants. The Red Ants firm specialises in “urban management support services for human settlements”, and was established to counter the influence of large, multinationals who dominate the South African economy. Its mission is “to protect, train, empower, serve and provide food security to our communities”. A noble mission indeed, yet more often than not the Red Ants are the cause of homelessness in those communities rather than providing security, food or otherwise.

Evictions should be lawful and respectful. Rend Ants act illegally.

As eviction attorneys we uphold the rights of property owners under the law, but we also fight for tenants whose rights are threatened or disregarded. We defend the Constitution, and base our law practice on the citizens’ rights bestowed therein. Eviction law has been carefully crafted to protect the poor and the vulnerable, after decades of exploitation and unfair practices under apartheid. Everyone has the right to adequate housing. Therefore the recent actions of the Red Ants in Gauteng are disappointing and disturbing.

Shacks destroyed in Alexandra Township

Earlier this month, more than 80 shacks, allegedly built illegally and too close to the Jukskei River, were destroyed by the Red Ants in Alexandra, Johannesburg, rendering 100s homeless. However, the Red Ants are not solely to blame. Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has said that the demolition was unlawful and should not have been authorised by city officials. The eviction order was in fact obtained in 2016 (before Mashaba was elected), but the eviction not carried out until now. Mashaba vows to “get to the bottom of it” and rebuild the demolished structures timeously.

Marshall St, Johannesburg

Last October, the Red Ants were also involved in a mass eviction in the Joburg CBD. In this case, residents were not forewarned of the eviction and many of their personal possessions were destroyed, in a callous and brutal removal that took place while many occupants were at work. We can only imagine the horror of returning home to find your belongings damaged or destroyed and your home uninhabitable. Occupants of the Marshall St building were mostly domestic workers, taxi drivers and informal traders, vulnerable individuals with limited means either to replace their possessions or to take action against the city. In this case, according to Tshepo Skosana, the sheriff who carried out the eviction order did not act in accordance with due process of law and “was negligent in fulfilling his duty to inform the residents of their pending eviction, which made the process illegal”. The Red Ants were the purveyors of brutality, but not the cause of it.

Death in the Vaal

It’s bad enough losing one’s home, but eviction should not result in loss of life. Sadly, this is precisely what happened in April when an eviction in the Vaal area of Gauteng, again facilitated by the Red Ants, led to clashes with community members. Two died, one from the Red Ants and one from the community, and six were injured. Yet again, the Red Ants and the Sheriff were acting on a court order to remove occupants from illegally erected shacks. The casualties happened when a fight broke out between the residents and the Red Ants.

Duties of the Sheriff

As Eviction Lawyers in South Africa, we do not condone the construction of unlawful dwellings. Residents should act within the law in choosing a site and erecting a structure. However, the current housing situation in South Africa does not always make that possible. Although there is a comprehensive social housing strategy that includes RDP homes, Community Residential Units (CRUs) and Upgrading of Informal Settlements (UISP), waiting lists are long and government has fallen behind in meeting its housing commitments to the poor and vulnerable in our society. It is no wonder communities sometimes take matters into their own hands. Section 26 of the Constitution guarantees the right to adequate housing, so they are only claiming their constitutional rights.

But landowners also have a right to the proper use of their land, so they may seek an eviction order when homes are built illegally. However, the court has an obligation to consider all circumstances before granting the order. According to Skosana, if occupants will be made homeless, there must be provision of alternative accommodation for an eviction to be lawful. The court must also consider the number of women and children and old people affected by the eviction and this will influence the amount of time granted before the order can be served. Turning people out of their homes with no warning breaches these conditions and more. 

The Sheriff’s role is serve court documents. This includes orders of eviction. The Sheriff has a duty to inform the occupants of the situation, in terms they will understand, and this includes their right to be represented in court. The Sheriff is also obliged to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and ensure that belongings are properly looked after during an eviction. The use of violence and threats in effecting an eviction is an abuse of the Sheriff’s authority.

In all these cases the Sheriff acted together with the Red Ants to intimidate residents and damage or destroy their possessions. Neither party can claim that they implemented a legal process.

Protection under the law

Residential tenants are protected through the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act (PIE) and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). A stringent eviction process is meant to safeguard human dignity, property, and ultimately life! As a specialist eviction attorney we are diligent about observing lawful eviction procedure. We condemn the abuse of power recently demonstrated by the Sheriffs and Red Ants involved in these evictions.

Landlord or tenant – let us help you

Eviction lawyers are now in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, as well as Cape Town. So wherever your property is located, we can help you with an eviction matter, whether you are landlord or tenant. If you have been the victim of an illegal eviction, call us today.

Contact Eviction Lawyers South Africa on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za

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Rental arrears? Is it worth trying to collect?

What can you do when your tenant falls into rental arrears?

Nobody wants to fall into rental arrears, but unfortunately it happens. Times are tough, and the economic climate isn’t forecast to improve for some time yet, so it is all too common for tenants to default on their rental payments.

Arrear rentals - eviction lawyers

This is a stressful situation for both landlord and tenant and it must be approached with caution and a full knowledge of the rights of each.

What’s in the lease?

Depending on the specific lease agreement, in general, if a tenant is seven days late with their rental payment, they are then deemed, in the eyes of the law, to be in breach of the lease agreement.

It is up the landlord to inform the tenant in writing of the arrear rental, but the landlord does not have the right to immediately evict the tenant. Through this official notice, the landlord is giving the tenant the opportunity to resolve the breach of the lease agreement. A landlord can blacklist the tenant with credit bureaux at this point.

In general, if the tenant does not resolve the arrear rental within 20 days, the landlord can consider cancelling the lease, and suing for the arrears. The landlord may attach the tenant’s belongings in terms of the landlord’s tacit hypothec. They can also begin the eviction process. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without following the correct legal procedure. For that reason, if a tenant has defaulted on their rental payments, a landlord should obtain legal assistance as soon as possible.

Tacit hypothec

If a tenant falls into rent arrears, common law grants the landlord “tacit hypothec” over the tenant’s goods on the property. What does this mean in plain English? “Hypothec” is an old term, dating back to the 16th century and having its origins in French, which has survived in legal jargon and means “a right established by law over a debtor’s property that remains in the debtor’s possession”. Tacit means “implied” or “understood without being stated”.

When might the landlord’s tacit hypothec apply?

The provision for tacit hypothec is enshrined in Section 32 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act. Section 32 allows a landlord to apply for the attachment and, in certain circumstances, for the removal of a tenant’s movable goods in the leased premises, in lieu of rent owed. A landlord may choose to invoke Section 32 because it can be more effective than a rent interdict summons. Understandably, tenants will not want to see their possessions impounded and may respond more swiftly to this threat than to an interdict for payment of arrears.

How does it work?

The landlord applies to the Magistrate’s Court for an attachment under Section 32 in securitatem debiti – in other words, to secure the debt. However, if there is reason to suspect the tenant might abscond with the goods, the landlord can request an immediate order. This allows for removal of goods as security for unpaid rent without giving notice, because such notice could result in the tenant removing things in advance, thus rendering the landlord’s tacit hypothec worthless.

Burden of proof

It is the landlord’s responsibility to prove grounds for a Section 32 order. If the application is opposed and a dispute arises, resolution is based on the balance of probabilities. If this fails, there must be substantial doubt regarding the landlord’s case for the attachment to be set aside. Therefore, the landlord’s right to enjoy the rental income from a property is protected, but that right may not be abused by invoking Section 32 without due cause. In this way common law seeks to treat all parties equitably.

Costs and benefits of collecting arrears or invoking the tacit hypothec

As with anything in business, it’s important for landlords to weigh up the costs and benefits of any action taken. Loss of income through rental arrears is never pleasant but will the cost of recovering the lost rent be worth the effort? The benefit of invoking the landlord’s tacit hypothec is that it compounds the effectiveness of the eviction procedure. A tenant, particularly one with a history of flitting, may not be unduly fazed by an eviction notice. The threat of losing belongings may be taken more seriously. It adds litigation pressure and puts the landlord in a better bargaining position, resulting in more likelihood of the tenant meeting the rental demand. If the tenant has little of any value to attach, the landlord can apply for a long-term order. This is binding for 30 years against the occupier’s assets or salary, so there is no escaping!

On the other hand, there are legal costs involved. Although the tacit hypothec gives the landlord a bargaining chip, assets are not cash. It may be some time before the landlord can recover arrears and costs. If all else fails and the landlord takes the tenant’s goods to auction, to realise the rental arrears, the Sheriff costs can be in excess of R5 000. There are also storage costs to consider while holding the goods as collateral.

Time to cut one’s losses?

If the rental arrear is not substantial, e.g. R10 000 – 15 000, it may not be worth pursuing.  This is not to suggest that tenants should get away with not paying their rent. But if the proper procedures are followed, i.e. the tenant is given a chance to rectify the breach of the lease agreement, and the rent is still not forthcoming, it may be best to begin the eviction process and leave it at that. The sooner the recalcitrant tenant is off the property, the sooner a new occupier can be found and the income stream can start flowing again.

Eviction Lawyers South Africa can help

However, if your loss is significant, we can help you recover your rental arrears, using the landlord’s tacit hypothec if necessary Cape Town law firm SD Law & Associates are property and eviction lawyers in South Africa, with offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria. We uphold everyone’s constitutional rights and act for both landlords and tenants. If you’re a landlord with unpaid rent and you would like to take action, or if you are in rent arrears and think you may be subject to a Section 32 order, we can help. Contact Cape Town Attorney Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Source: Eviction Specialists

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Eviction cost

How much does it cost to evict a tenant?

Eviction is an unpleasant word. It conjures up images of an uncaring landlord putting an unfortunate tenant out on the streets. It’s true that there are cases of unfair evictions. But for the most part, rental housing legislation now provides considerable protection to tenants and prevents the abuse of power by landlords that sometimes happened in the past.

Eviction cost - eviction lawyers

The law protects tenants…but it also assures property owners of certain rights. If you own property and it provides you with valuable income, you are entitled to enjoy your property and benefit financially from it without suffering misuse or abuse at the hands of your tenants. If the worst happens and you need to evict your tenants, what is the cost of eviction?

When should you consult an eviction attorney?

If the landlord-tenant relationship is harmonious, and both parties uphold the lease agreement, the word “eviction” is unlikely to arise. Eviction is the last resort when there is an unresolved breach of the lease. A breach can happen for a number of reasons, which may include failure to maintain the property or adhere to the conditions of the lease, but the most common cause for eviction is default in payment of rent. However, a landlord cannot simply evict a tenant for rent arrears. In fact, a landlord can’t evict a tenant at all. Only the courts can do that.

However tempting it may be to “do it yourself”, eviction is a legal process and it requires an eviction attorney. While you may wish to avoid eviction costs, delay in consulting an eviction lawyer can be a false economy. As the rent arrears pile up, you are losing money that may never be recovered. Spending money on expert eviction attorneys will ensure a speedier, smoother course of action and is likely to save you money in the long run – by limiting your losses and restoring the property to its income-earning status.

How much does an eviction cost?

The cost of an eviction will depend on the complexity of the situation. If a tenant is very stubborn and refuses to vacate the property, eviction costs can mount. An unopposed eviction will cost between R5 000 and R15 000. However, if the eviction is opposed, the cost can escalate to as much as R100 000 and the months can drag on. This is not a job for a layperson. Provided your eviction attorney follows the correct process, the court will award the eviction order – eventually – but getting the tenant out is another matter.

 

Call the Sheriff!

The court may grant your eviction order, but if the tenants simply dig their heels in and refuse to move, you may not legally remove them or their possessions from your property yourself. Only the Sheriff is authorised to do this. If you need the services of the Sheriff to forcibly effect the eviction, the cost will depend on the size of the property and the number of tenants. You can expect to pay from R1 000 to R10 000 in Sheriff’s costs.

Women and children first

Remember that PIE gives special consideration to vulnerable tenants – woman-headed households with children, the elderly and the disabled – so while you are not prohibited from evicting these tenants if they are in breach of the lease, you must allow them more time to find suitable alternative accommodation. This will add to your lost earnings and effectively increase the eviction cost, although it won’t generate additional legal costs.

Can you claim the eviction cost from the tenant?

While it may be technically possible to reclaim eviction charges from the tenant, in reality you are very unlikely to succeed in recouping your costs. If your tenant has defaulted on rent due to inability to pay, you may struggle even to recover the rent you are due. Expecting a financially stressed individual to come up with a five-figure sum in addition to unpaid rent is fanciful. You could sue for it, but the result will be the same. You can’t get blood out of a stone.

Consult a good eviction attorney

As we’ve highlighted, an eviction lawyer is essential if you have a troublesome tenant who doesn’t respond to reason and eviction is your only recourse. You can attempt to obtain an eviction order from the court yourself, but if you are not well versed in rental housing law your chances of success are much reduced. An eviction lawyer knows the intricacies of PIE and will make sure you don’t lose your case on a technicality.

Furthermore, an eviction attorney will save you money, despite the fee charged. If your rental income is R10 000 – R 20 000 per month it won’t take many months of rent arrears to lose you far more than your eviction will cost in legal fees. Cape Town lawyers Simon Dippenaar and Associates are experts in eviction law and will make sure your property is returned to its income-earning status as soon as possible! Contact Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Source: Eviction Specialists

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Commercial evictions: how a landlord can evict a tenant

PIE does not apply to commercial evictions, but CPA might

Legislation introduced in the last few years gives residential tenants a host of rights, and landowners or landlords must follow very strict procedures to evict tenants. However, the same is not true of commercial tenants. In some case the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) may apply, but if not, the relationship is governed by contract law.

Commercial evictions - Eviction lawyers

Landlord and commercial tenant relationship

South African contract law is derived from the Roman-Dutch law of contract. A contract is defined as an agreement between two or more parties binding them in a legal commitment. It is basically a legal framework that enables individuals or juristic persons (in other words, companies or organisations) to engage in business. They can exchange resources – such as money or their time – in the knowledge that they are protected by a legal agreement that is – or should be – fair to both parties. If one party reneges on their obligations, the other party is safeguarded by law from loss or the consequences of unlawful behaviour.

A commercial lease is a form of contract. It outlines the interests of both landlord and tenant and their duties towards each other. Properly drafted, it should facilitate a harmonious relationship between the two. Unlike residential tenancies, there is no legislation specifically governing commercial leases, so a professionally prepared, written lease is essential for avoiding misunderstanding and disputes. It is the contract as defined above.

Commercial rental is normally charged per square metre, rather than a flat rate for the premises. On top of that, there is usually a cost for the landlord’s operating costs, parking, rates and taxes, body corporate levies and insurance as well as charges based on use for electricity, water, refuse collection and sewerage. These should all be specified in the lease.

Selling the lease

If a tenant moves out without notifying the landlord and sells the lease to a new business, the new tenant is an illegal occupier. A lease is a contract between two named individuals or juristic persons. A lease can be sold, but the contract with the property owner must then be renegotiated and a new lease drawn up. Whether or not this can be done will also depend on the stipulations in the original lease.

Definition of a commercial tenant

Whether or not a tenant is considered commercial is not based on the zoning of the building but on the use of it. So someone who resides in a commercial property is considered a residential tenant and is protected by PIE. By contrast, a commercial occupant is someone who “…does not use buildings and structures as a form of dwelling or shelter”. The commercial occupant could be an organisation or an individual, and the building could be a residential structure. For example, a homeowner may let a cottage on their property to a self-employed consultant to use as an office. Although the cottage is part of a residential holding, the consultant is a commercial tenant because of the way the cottage is used.

Cancellation of a commercial lease

While commercial tenants do not enjoy the level of protection afforded residential tenants by PIE, the landlord must still follow due process. If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they must first cancel the lease. This can be done on expiry of the lease or on the occasion of a material breach of the terms of the agreement (usually rent arrears).

Consumer Protection Act

In some instances a commercial tenant may be protected by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). If there is a fixed term lease, Section 14 of the CPA applies. In this scenario the landlord must give 20 business days’ written notice of a breach of the lease agreement. They may then only cancel the lease if the tenant fails to rectify the breach within the 20 days.

Section 14 does not apply in the following situations:

  • If the tenant is an organ of State (municipality, state department etc.)
  • If the landlord and tenant are both juristic persons
  • Once-off leases
  • If the tenant is a juristic person with an income/turnover above R2 million per year

In these circumstances 20 business days’ notice of a breach is not required before being able to cancel the lease.

Eviction process for a commercial tenant

Commercial evictions are handled either by the High Court or the Magistrate’s Court. The case is brought by way of action or application proceedings in the High Court and by way of action proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court. The choice of court is usually determined by the lease agreement, with the jurisdiction of the Magistrate’s Court the most common. The lease agreement must first be cancelled, as discussed above, before an eviction proceeding can be brought.

Generally, commercial evictions are effected speedily. The issues surrounding residential evictions – the rights of the occupier to a dwelling and the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals – are not at stake. By contrast, in the business context the rights of the property owner to protect commercial income take priority. But this highlights the need for a rock-solid lease to be in place. This provides the legal framework within which the eviction can take place.

Commercial evictions do not only involve the removal of the tenant. Landlords have a right to claim any damages that may apply at the time of eviction, as well as rent arrears.

Who can evict?

It is worth noting that in a commercial eviction the official landlord may not necessarily be the property owner. Commercial property is often owned by a juristic person such as a large corporation or a pension fund. Therefore an agent can act as applicant in an eviction case, as long as they can prove they have the right to appear in court on behalf of the owner (this is known in law as “locus standi”).

Landlord’s hypothec – the right to repossess tenant’s equipment

A commercial tenant does not have the same attachment to a property as a residential tenant. They still have somewhere to sleep at night, and it is not that difficult to find an alternative location for a business. For that reason, there is a greater risk that a commercial tenant might abscond when the notice to quit is served. Rather than pay the outstanding rent, the tenant might just take their moveable property and run. After all, they are not losing their home.

If a landlord is concerned that the commercial tenant might do a midnight flit, an urgent application can be brought before the Court to allow the landlord to attach and secure the movable goods on the property. If the tenant then removes them it is a criminal offence.

The security a landlord holds over a tenant’s property is known as the hypothec and is actually the strongest form of security in South African law. However, once the movable goods are removed from the property the landlord has no security over or rights to those goods. Therefore if there is reason to suspect a tenant might beat a hasty retreat, the landlord must apply for the attachment of the goods urgently. This is best done with the help of an experienced Cape Town Eviction Attorney.

Business rescue

Occasionally a landlord might not be able to commence the eviction process, even if the tenant is in breach of the lease. A business that has fallen on hard times may enter Business Rescue. This is a process that allows a business in financial distress time for rehabilitation. During this period there is a moratorium on all legal action, so an eviction notice may not be served.

What happens if the premises are sold?

There is a principle in South African law, derived from Roman-Dutch law, called “huur gaat voor koop“, which translates as “only the lease and nothing more”. What this means for the tenant is that, in the event of a sale of the building leased by the tenant, the purchaser is obliged to honour the lease agreement. The tenant may continue to occupy the building, or their part of it, according to the terms of the lease. The tenant’s rights in this situation are stronger than the right of ownership. However, the tenant should be alert to the fact that the new owner may not wish to renew the lease, depending on their plans for the property. So a wise tenant will be on the look-out for new premises well in advance of their lease expiry.

Professional help is essential

Whether you are a commercial tenant or landlord, it’s important to have a carefully drafted lease that includes all your requirements and conditions. If both parties know exactly who is responsible for what, conflict is less likely to occur. This includes the terms of renewal, which are often left open-ended in commercial leases and can be a cause for dispute as the end of the lease period draws near. Cape Town Eviction Attorneys, Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. in Cape Town law firm of evictions specialists with extensive experience in property law (now serving Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal). They can ensure your lease is a sound business contract that will protect you, landlord or tenant. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

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Eviction Law – Changes

Eviction Law Changes - Eviction Lawyers South Africa

How Constitutional law is transforming eviction law

Eviction | The Constitution is the backbone of society and South Africa is fortunate to have “the most admirable Constitution in the history of the world,” according to Harvard law scholar Cass Sunstein. Our Constitution is unique in that it includes “positive rights” which require the State to enact policies that minimise inequality, free South Africans from discrimination and redress historical inequalities. Any legislation that contradicts the Constitution is deemed invalid.

The lie of the land

In terms of eviction law, these Constitutional principles are being applied by the Courts in an attempt to strike a balance between the rights of landowners and the rights of the landless.

Section 26(3) of the Constitution states that “no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.” Section 26(1) of the Constitution further provides for everyone’s right “to access to adequate housing” and sets out the State’s obligation to ensure this right is upheld (Section 26(1).

Clearly it is residential evictions, regulated by The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE), and the rights of landowners that are most affected by the implementation of these Constitutional principles. Read more about PIE here.

So, although section 26(3) of the Constitution has not amended our common law, it does mandate legislation that impacts the common law rights of landowners. In addition, the Courts tend to place a greater burden on the applicant-owner where the State is the applicant.

Burden of proof

A landowner must prove ownership by producing title deeds for the property and must show that the defendant is occupying his property to ensure eviction. This is known as rei vindicatio. The onus then falls to the defendant to prove he has a valid right to occupation.

Majority of disputes about day-to-day tenancy

While changes to legislation have indeed contributed to greater social justice, there have been some negative side effects, such as the reluctance of landowners to provide housing for their labourers, uncontrolled squatting and an influx of rural residents into urban areas, with the associated health and safety hazards of overcrowding. But it is day-to-day tenancy issues and the maintenance of property values that comprise the vast majority of disputes, rather than the extreme cases of large-scale land invasions and the plight of the homeless.

Navigating your way through an eviction

Eviction law has developed significantly over the last few years and some procedures have changed because of the Consumer Protection Act. Recent cases also indicate that the same procedures must be followed in both the Magistrate’s Court and the High Court. Navigating your way through an eviction and making sure you follow the correct process can be daunting. So, whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, don’t try to go it alone.

We can help

At Cape Town Eviction Attorneys, SD Law & Associates, we are specialists in property law. Let us help you with the eviction process or other property matter. Contact Cape Town Lawyer Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

 

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