We are confronted, on a daily basis, with property owners who urgently require legal assistance with regards to non-paying tenants. It is then to our surprise, that legal assistance was one of the last options to address the problem. Many property owners initially attempt to resolve the matter on their own accord or appoint themselves or utilize illegal institutes that promise quick evictions without approaching a court. The results in many cases, if not most cases are that money is spent, without any results.
The most common reason for not seeking legal advice once the problem arise is that “the PIE Act is not in favour of the property owner and it is almost impossible to evict someone”. The purpose of The Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act is, as the Act itself says, prevent unlawful evictions and to set out the procedure to follow in order to obtain a legal eviction order. Our courts take various factors into account before granting an eviction order. It is required that when you apply to court for an eviction order that all relevant factors are revealed to court and the correct procedure are followed. The court will then be able to grant an order, which balances the rights of the owner and that of the unlawful occupant, and in doing so making a decision which is just and equitable in the circumstances.
Just and equitable, in some instances, mean that the occupier is granted more time to vacate. We have not had a case where the Court refused to grant an eviction order based on the equity provisions set out in PIE. A private land owner can never be burdened with the duty to provide another person with free accommodation; this has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court on many occasions.
Cost should never be a reason for not initiating eviction proceedings. One has to consider the loss of income, the potential damage suffered whilst having an unlawful occupant in the property; this already outweighs the legal cost incurred. It should be kept in mind that the legal costs are not spend to secure rental income, but to regain possession of an asset worth hundreds, often millions of Rands. As part of the eviction order, a costs order is also granted against the illegal occupant.
Owners should realise that with any asset or investment there are risks involved, in the rental industry it is illegal occupation. The rental industry poses fantastic investment opportunities, but it is crucial to have the correct safety measures in place, for instance proper vetting, current lease agreements and the right attorneys who can step in should the need arise. It will be advisable to have reserves available to initiate legal eviction proceedings as soon as possible.
The legal route is the only effective way to protect your investment.