Landlords and letting agents will no doubt welcome the news that the long-delayed amendment to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (the "PIE Act") is back on the government's agenda.
Dr Willie Marais, president of the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa (IEASA), reports that the revived amendment bill includes a clause to exclude defaulting tenants, and home-owners who default on bond repayments, from protection under the Act.
"This Act was originally simply a piece of squatter control legislation," says Marais, "but since a controversial Supreme Court decision in 2002, defaulting tenants and home-loan-payers have been able to hide behind it making it difficult for landlords to recover their properties from them. An amendment to deprive defaulters of protection was gazetted in 2003, but was later withdrawn for technical reasons. It has now been revived, and was open for comment until February 2."
The many proposed amendments include adding a clause to the Act which expressly states that the Act would not apply to a person who occupied land as a tenant, or in terms of any other agreement, or as the owner, and who continues to occupy the land after the tenancy or agreement has been validly terminated, or if he is no longer the owner. Another amendment clarifies that the term "land" includes buildings and structures.
"Nevertheless," Marais points out, "even if the amendment is passed and becomes law, a landlord will still have to obtain a court order before he can evict a defaulter. But it should be simpler and cheaper to obtain the order, and, if the proposed amendments to the Rental Housing Act are also passed, it might well be possible for a residential landlord to obtain an eviction order through a Rental Housing Tribunal instead of a court, which might be simpler and cheaper still, on condition that the current ineffectiveness of those tribunals is remedied."
The draft amendment bill is available from the Government Printer (Government Gazette 29501 dated December 22, 2006) or from the government website (www.info.gov.za - click on "documents"). Public comment on the bill closed on February 2.