You have a property and have rented it out. The tenants are not paying the rent and have decided to squat. No amount of threats, letters, promises to pay have made any difference. What do you do? You may feel like breaking legs, setting them alight etc but you cannot do that.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Send a letter to your tenant cancelling the lease agreement and telling him to leave.
2. If the tenant doesn’t leave, you have to get a court order for his eviction.
3. Before going to court you must first deliver an application for eviction.
4. Then you deliver a notice two weeks before going to court, saying on what date the
court hearing will take place and where it will take place.
5. If there is no opposition to your court application, you should obtain a court order
for the eviction of your tenant.
6. You serve the eviction order on your tenant.
7. If he still refuses to budge, the sheriff of the court will forcibly remove the tenant
and his belongings from your property.
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No 19 of 1998 (also called PIE) makes it a criminal offence to evict your tenant without a court order.
The court will only give an eviction order if it is proved that 1) you are the owner of the land; 2) the person occupying your property is an unlawful occupier; and 3) you have reasonable grounds to evict the occupier.
The court will take into account whether there is alternative accommodation available.
It will take at least four weeks to obtain an eviction order even where the matter is undefended. If the matter goes to argument, this period may be anything between six months to a year.
As this is a very specialised field your attorney must be intimately versed in the PIE Act and the eviction process. If any of the procedural steps are not correctly followed, your case will simply be thrown out by the court or delayed even further.
If you use an attorney, legal fees will have to be paid. An unopposed eviction will cost you, as owner, at least R10 000.00 to R 15 000.00 and an opposed application more than R50 000.
However you can reclaim these fees from your ex-tenant, as well as the outstanding rent money (If he has any).
All in all a very unhappy state of affairs. In our view, the only way to approach it is to focus on the first prize being to get the tenant out! Afterwards, you can decide whether or not it is worth chasing after the arrear rental and costs.