Is my landlord allowed to evict me and my family during the National Lockdown if we cannot pay our rent? What are my legal rights considering COVID-19?
We are today experiencing day 99 of the South Africa national lockdown. Many people are out of work, and unable to pay their rent, mortgage bonds and so on. COVID-19 came with it a lot of challenges and drastically affected everyone’s lives. During this period, Our Lawyer received many queries regarding the eviction of people from their homes during the national lockdown. As people cannot pay their rent or monthly mortgage bond repayments, eviction is on many people’s minds.
Commercial Rent Defaulters during the National Lockdown
This article does not deal with the eviction from commercial property. For example, it would not apply to you if you are a business owner and cannot afford to pay your commercial rent. Here reference can be made to gyms, fitness centres, nightclubs, and those other businesses specifically prohibited from operating during the lockdown. As well as those businesses which are struggling to survive during the lockdown. In such a case, the current lockdown regulations won’t be of much use. You and your business would be left at the mercy of the court. Nonetheless, we are sure the courts would be sympathetic depending on your specific situation.
The default of mortgage bond payment – Do the Regulations assist?
If you are unable to pay your bond, the bank must first take you to court and ultimately be able to declare your property executable. Once this is done, then the property would be sold at a public auction. If you decided not to leave after the sale, then the new owner would have to consider eviction proceedings. At that point would this article apply to you. Now moving on.
Evictions at the start of the lockdown – What was the law then?
At the start of the lockdown, evictions where prohibited. However, now in alert level 3, things are the same, but not quite. Have a look at this article posted at the start of the lockdown, “Occupants and tenants may not be evicted from their homes during the National Lockdown. This is so even if you are in arrears with your rent or bond, or the lease has been terminated.”
Latest eviction regulations in South Africa – Has things changed?
In terms of the current Disaster Management Act Regulations, eviction orders are to be stayed and suspended until the last day of the alert level 3 period. This only relates to your home or land. The court dealing with the eviction matter may order that the eviction not be stayed and suspended if it decides that it is not just and equitable to do so until the last day of the Alert Level 3 period. However, if the court determines it isn’t just and equitable to suspend the eviction order, it may order that the eviction takes place during level 3.
The regulation reads as follows:
- (1) Subject to subregulation (2), a person may not be evicted from his or her land or home during the period of Alert Level 3 period.
(2) A competent court may grant an order for the eviction of a person from his or her land or home in terms of the provisions of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, 1997 (Act No. 62 of 1997) and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, 1998 (Act No, 19 of 1998): Provided that an order of eviction may be stayed and suspended until the last day Of the Alert Level 3 period, unless a court decides that it is not just and equitable to stay and suspend the order until the last day of the Alert Level 3 period
Let us summaries: What does this mean to the ordinary tenant when it comes to evictions during the lockdown?
In short, your landlord, or owner of the property may approach the court to have you evicted from your home. However, should the court determine that you are an unlawful occupier of the land or premises, it would grant an eviction order, but make an order that it remains suspended until the end of alert level 3 unless the court decides that it would be just and equitable to order otherwise.
Nothing, however, prevents the Minister from extending the eviction prohibition in alert level two or one when the time arrives. We will, however, have to wait and see. Read on to learn more about how evictions work.
Evictions from your home must be lawful
For an eviction to be lawful, the person evicting you must obtain a court order. Without a court order, the sheriff of the Court cannot remove you from your home. You can, therefore, refuse to vacate your home. During the lockdown, the sheriff of the court cannot remove you, even if he or she comes with a court order.
Constitutional provisions regarding evicting people from their homes
Section 25 of our Constitution states the following:
“25(1) No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”
Furthermore, section, section 26 (3) of our Constitution states:
“No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.”
Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 19 of 1998
Therefore, for someone to be evicted, an application must be made to the court. The law applicable is the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 19 of 1998. It came into effect on 5 June 1998. In it, it lays down the procedure for the eviction of unlawful occupiers.
In short, the owner or person in charge of the premises must follow the processes in the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act. It entails giving you notice to appear in court to say your say. The court would then decide whether or not you should be evicted after hearing both sides of the story.
We are certain that you found the above article useful and interesting. Please consider sharing it on the share buttons below. They include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Gmail and more. Someone may find it useful as well.
Should you require business advice or services, feel free to click on these links: