Evictions during Covid
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on residential tenants ability to pay rent. This then negatively affects the landlord, who may be dependent on that rental income to service the home loan on that property, or may have allocated that income to their expenses.
However, the law is clear – you may not be evicted from your land or home under Adjusted Alert Level 3 (or even outside of lockdown), unless a court grants an order for your eviction. Also, a court may grant an eviction order Under Alert level 3, but it is likely to suspend it until the national state of disaster lapses. (Until we are out of lockdown)
It is also important to remember that only a Sheriff of the court, with the valid court order can evict you from the premises. Your landlord may not physically remove you or your possessions form the property.
A forced removal from the property without a court order is unlawful. If your landlord does this, you are well within your rights to approach the police and make a case.
It is also illegal for a landlord to:
- Change the locks
- Disconnect water
- Disconnect electricity
- Harass, intimidate or threaten you – or get other people to do so.
- Come onto the property and take your goods to resell in lieu of rental
Normal eviction process
The process for eviction is clear, and all steps must be followed exactly as described. If a landlord evicts a tenant without a court order, the tenant may institute a private prosecution. If found guilty and convicted, the landlord may receive a fine or even face a prison sentence of up to two years.
The process is as follows:
- Landlord serves notice to the tenant to rectify the breach.
- If the breach is not rectified, the landlord can terminate the lease contract and give a date by which to vacate the premises.
- If the tenant fails to vacate, the landlord gives notice to the offending tenant of the intention to evict the tenant through the courts.
- Landlord applies to court to have a tenant eviction order issued to the tenant.
- The court issues the tenant eviction order to the tenant and the municipality that has jurisdiction in the area 14 days before the court hearing.
- Court hearing takes place. The tenant may put forward a defence.
- If the defence is valid, a trial date is set. If there is no valid defence, a warrant of eviction is issued to the sheriff, giving authorisation for the sheriff to remove the tenant’s possessions from the premises.
- A trial begins or the court sheriff removes the tenant’s possessions from the premises.
Here are some more frequently asked questions by tenants
Must I sign a lease with my landlord?
It is always better for both parties to have your agreement in writing, setting out the terms and conditions of your agreement. This will go a long way to preventing later disputes.
What information must be in a written lease between me (the tenant) and landlord
- Your name.
- Your landlord’s name.
- Your postal address.
- Your landlord’s postal address.
- The address of the property being leased.
- The amount for which you will rent it.
- The amount by which the rent will increase (for example, by 10% when renewing the lease).
- When the rent will increase (for example, if there is a rates increase).
- How often rent is to be paid (for example, monthly).
- The amount of the deposit, if any.
- Your and your landlord’s obligations (for example, who is responsible for maintenance? Who will pay the water, electricity and rates bills? Usually, the tenant pays for charges related to consumption, such as water and electricity, and the landlord pays for charges related to the property, such as rates).
- The conditions under which either you or your landlord can give notice to cancel the contract (for example, if specific maintenance is not done, or if the tenant is in arrears with the rent).
- The house rules, signed by both of you, should be attached to the lease.
- A list of defects, drawn up at a joint inspection when you move in and signed by both of you, must also be attached to the lease.
Who can help me if I have problems with my landlord?
- The Rental housing tribunal. They can be found on the Department of Human Settlements website: www.dhs.gov.za