Delay in PIE (Prevention of Illegal Eviction) Act amendment creating inner city sinkholes

Johannesburg Municipality is in deep trouble-- perhaps other municipalities as well – after a high court judgement refusing them the right to evict illegal tenants from bad buildings, says Neville Schaefer, Chairman of national residential property manager Trafalgar.

Commenting on the ruling in a media release, Schaefer says that unless the municipality appeal the judgement given at the Johannesburg High Court on March 3, the city must develop a sound housing policy and provide accommodation for the poor within the inner city before the can evict “and this could take years, even decades,” says Schaefer.

But, he notes in the release, that the case does not change the law between landlords and tenants: “A landlord does not have to find alternative accommodation for a defaulting tenant before eviction. But in cases where there has been an unlawful occupant for more than six months, or it is an elderly person or single mother with young children, they cannot be evicted until the municipality has found them alternative accommodation.”

Private landlords’ biggest problem remains the application of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction (PIE) Act to flats by a supreme court of appeal judgement four years ago. “The law was meant to apply to land invaders not tenants who don’t pay their rent,” says Schaefer. “The then minister of housing, and current deputy director general of the ANC, said it was not meant to apply to them and the act would be changed.

“Draft amendments were made but nothing has happened. Thousands of sectional title owner occupiers and landlords are also in deep trouble because they cannot collect money to pay building costs. Many have already lost their homes and sectional title buildings have become sinkholes of illegal occupants the municipalities can now not evict.”

‘This gives added urgency to amending the PIE Act so sectional title owners in the inner city can by simple application to the magistrates court get an eviction order against unlawful occupants. Hundreds of buildings, now on the edge, can then be saved from becoming sinkholes of occupants that cannot be evicted.”
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