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rental housing amendment Archives | Eviction Lawyers South Africa

How to evict a tenant without a lease

By | Evictions, Lease Agreement

Tenants have rights with or without a written lease

No lease? No change to the eviction process. Eviction lawyers

Your arrangement with your tenant is not working out, and you’ve reached the point where you are considering eviction. But you don’t have a written lease agreement and you’re not sure how to evict a tenant without a lease. What now?

Firstly, you cannot take the law into your own hands. You must follow the correct process if the eviction is to be deemed lawful. Whether or not there is a written lease agreement, if a landlord allows someone to reside on a property and accepts rent, that is regarded as a de facto lease and is binding.

This scenario will soon change, however. The as yet un-gazetted Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 compels landlords to have a written lease agreement in place and is just one of the regulations that will further protect the rights of tenants and reinforce the obligations of landlords. 

Landlords and tenants will have six months to comply with the provisions of the Act once the new legislation comes into effect. All new lease agreements must be in writing and verbal agreements will no longer be binding.

Allow time to remedy a breach of contract 

If the tenant is in breach of a rental agreement, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing and allow them to remedy the situation. This might happen if there is excessive noise, there are pets on the property without permission, or rent is in arrears. Unless specified in the lease agreement, a tenant has 20 working days to rectify the breach in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). In the case of a verbal agreement, or if the lease has expired but the tenant still lives on the property with the landlord’s permission on a month-to-month basis, the landlord must afford the tenant one calendar month’s notice to make good the situation.

If the tenant fails to repair the breach within the specified time period and the matter cannot be settled, the next step is for the landlord to issue the tenant with a letter cancelling the lease. With a bit of luck, the troublesome tenant will vacate the property at the end of the notice period. However, if the notice of cancellation is ignored and the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord may have no choice but to apply to the court for an eviction order. 

The steps to eviction with or without a written lease

An eviction order will be served 14 days prior to the court hearing and, if the tenant is unable to present a valid defence at the hearing, a warrant of eviction will be issued allowing the sheriff to remove the tenant’s possessions from the property. If the tenant does present a valid defence at the hearing, a trial date will then be set.

Removing a recalcitrant tenant can be extremely frustrating, but failure to observe legal processes will result in an unlawful eviction and possible criminal action. 

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 1998 (PIE) sets out strict procedures on how to properly evict unlawful occupiers from residential properties, while prohibiting illegal evictions. It is not permissible to change the locks or turn off the water and electricity. A landlord who does not comply with PIE could face a fine or up to two years imprisonment, so it’s best to hire an eviction lawyer at this stage to ensure the correct procedure is observed.

Keep on the right side of the law

Tenants or landlords may decide to terminate a lease agreement for many reasons, but, whatever the grounds, both parties must act within the law. Simon Dippenaar and Associates are expert eviction lawyers who will ensure the correct procedures are followed every step of the way. We will assist with eviction notices and court appearances to secure a satisfactory outcome. Call us on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

Further reading:

Rental Housing Amendment Act 2014 by Eviction Lawyer

Getting To Grips With The Rental Housing Amendment Act

By | Rental Housing Act

We recently wrote about the Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014, still to be gazetted. It seems the article has focused the minds of our clients and we’ve had requests for more information on what the Amendment Act means for both landlords and tenants. So we will set out here what we see as the most important points.

Obligations of the landlord

Arguably the most significant change in legislation is the onus on the landlord to provide a written lease agreement, and the criminalisation of the failure to do so. This strikes us as a heavy-handed means to a reasonable end; and an alternative approach might be the provision of a default lease agreement enforceable in law in the absence of a written lease. This would encourage landlords to draw up written agreements if they want to be sure of including their own clauses, but not tie up court time enforcing an unnecessary criminal law should they be negligent in drafting the lease. But meanwhile, if you are a landlord, it is your responsibility to provide your tenant with a lease in writing.

The lease must contain, at a minimum, the street address of the premises, the rights and obligations of the landlord and tenant (which must comply with the Act), the deposit amount, the rental amount, any other charges, the frequency of payment and the process to follow if escalation of complaints is necessary.

Landlords are also obliged to ensure the tenant’s deposit is lodged in an interest-bearing account and to repay the deposit plus interest within seven days of the expiry of the lease. During the course of the tenancy the tenant is entitled to request written proof of interest earned on the deposit.

At the start of the lease, landlords must undertake to inspect the property with the tenant to identify any damages or defects. The tenant may insist that sub-standard conditions are rectified before moving in, and the landlord must comply. If the landlord fails to inspect the property with the tenant, then it is assumed that the property is in good condition. Allowance for post-rental inspection is also included in this section of the Act.

Rights of the tenant

In addition to the rights of the tenant implied in the landlord’s obligations above, there are several other tenant’s rights enshrined in the Amendment Act, not forgetting that the tenant also has obligations.

The privacy of tenants is thoroughly protected in the legislation. While landlords reserve the right to inspect the property from time to time, sufficient advance notice must be given. Unannounced, ‘spot’ inspections are not permitted, nor is a search of the premises, unless there is considerable reason to suspect misconduct and a court order has been obtained.

Tenants are entitled to written receipts for all payments made to the landlord, and to receipts for any repairs carried out to the property that may be deducted from the deposit before it is returned at the end of the lease.

Tenants must obtain the landlord’s consent before sub-letting any part of the property, but landlords are expected to grant permission, provided the request is reasonable.

Fit for human habitation

The Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 was developed to remedy some of the shortcomings of the original Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999. The Amendment Act aims to improve the regulation of the landlord/tenant relationship and provide tenants with greater protection. It also attempts to strengthen the powers of the Rental Housing Tribunals and create a better appeals process; and most importantly it introduces standards for rental housing, as historically some landlords have exploited desperate tenants by offering woefully sub-standard dwellings for let.

The Amendment Act sets out quite clearly what the landlord’s duties are in terms of the condition of the property and the safety and security of the occupants. The term “habitability” is defined as referring to adequate space; protection from the elements and other threats to health; physical safety of the tenant, the tenant’s household and visitors; and a structurally sound building. Because property owners also have a right to the security and fair treatment of their dwellings, the amended Act offers landlords some protection against malicious damage caused by tenants, with the inclusion of reasonable rules and regulations in lease agreements.

We welcome this as an important step towards improving the quality of housing for some of the most vulnerable in our society and protecting landlords from disrespectful tenants.

Timing

A number of clients have asked about the implications of the Amendment Act for tenancy arrangements already in force. Legislation is not usually applied retrospectively. In the case of the Rental Housing Amendment Act 2014, when it is eventually gazetted, the terms of the Act will apply immediately for new lease agreements, and there will be a six-month transitional period to allow existing arrangements to be brought into line with the legislation.

Help is at hand

So don’t panic. But if you own multiple properties and have a large number of tenants, it might be advisable to begin the process of drafting leases in preparation for the new law to come into effect. Six months can pass very quickly, and not providing tenants with a written lease is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine or even up to two years in prison.

Contact us

Cape Town Eviction Attorneys Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. are eviction specialists. We act for both landlords and tenants and therefore know the challenges faced by both parties; and we know the legislation as it affects both sides. Call us now on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need help complying with the Rental Housing Amendment Act 35 of 2014 when it comes onto the statute books. Don’t leave it until the law is in place.

Further reading