Trying to evict a tenant can be a highly frustrating problem, especially if you’re losing money on rentals or need to fix damage to your property that was caused by the tenant. However, it’s essential that you follow the letter of the law so that you don’t end up in trouble.
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No 19 of 1998 (PIE) has very careful regulations laid out that dictate what the eviction process must be. It doesn’t matter if your tenants are defaulting on their rent or damaging your property, you have to follow this process in order to stay on the right side of the law.
What constitutes an illegal eviction?
- Turning off the water and electricity – It can be very tempting to make life as miserable and as uncomfortable as possible for your tenants in order to force them out. This is deemed an unlawful act because it goes against a person’s constitutional right to decent housing and the landlord’s responsibility under the Rental Housing Act, 1999, to provide liveable accommodation.
- Changing the locks – It goes against the regulations set out in PIE to stop the tenant from being able to get into their home before they have found a suitable alternative. You must refrain from taking this kind of action, even if a court order for eviction has been granted.
- Scare tactics – Trying to intimidate the tenants and scare them into moving out is an unlawful act. Not only could you face charges under PIE, but you could also be accused of attempted assault and battery. This could lead to a criminal record for you that won’t go away.
- Removing your tenant’s furniture and belongings – Even if an eviction order has come from the courts, you cannot move the tenant out for them. The only person who can do this is the Sheriff of the Court, and then only if the tenant doesn’t leave by the date and time stated in the court ruling.
What are the penalties for an illegal eviction?
The courts take this very seriously in South Africa. You could end up paying a heavy fine, as well as paying damages to your tenant. The worst case scenario is that you could end up in jail, facing serious criminal charges.
If you’re stuck in a property dispute that you can’t see a way out of, don’t cross that line into an illegal eviction. Give Simon a call to find out exactly how to toe the line legally and get your troublesome tenant out for good.