Evicting a troublesome tenant can be a very difficult task

Anyone familiar with the South African property scene will from time-to-time have come across those heart-wrenching situations where whole families are forced by the sheriff of the court to move out of a home with all of their belonging, which in some cases are literally dumped on a nearby street pavement.

While such evicted tenants have to be pitied, they have in most cases ended up in this predicament after ignoring repeated requests for rent payments, first from the landlord and later from the court. They have also probably in many cases failed to respond to a court summons. They may have had six months or longer free occupation of the home during which time the landlord might have had to pay the monthly bond repayments on the property without any help from the rental income on which he had relied. 

Pointing this out recently, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, said that the Prevention of Illegal Occupation Act (also called the Pie Act) “leans over backwards” to alleviate suffering for the tenant. The landlord himself in some cases actually has to identify alternative similarly prices premises to which the tenant could apply.

With commercial property, however, the situation is very different. Here, as was shown in a recent Gauteng High Court case, Denneboom Service Station CC and ANOTHER versus Phanyame, the tenant, Chiloane was renting a commercial service station, which was then bought by Phanyame, but he refused to leave the premises — and on losing his case at the Gauteng High Court appealed to the Constitutional Court.

This court confirmed the eviction of the business premises but ruled that Chiloane’s occupation of a home nearby, also bought by the complainant, could not be upheld until the provisions of the Pie Act had been fully complied with.

“However you assess this case,” said Rawson, “it would appear that the tenant by an illegal game was able to obtain occupancy of both premises long after the landlord wanted to take them back. The fact that this is possible confirms the need for exceptionally careful tenant selection on all occasions and, in our experience this calls for the input for an experienced estate agent or voter.”

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