To evict a tenant lawfully, the best way to minimize costs and losses is to act quickly and effectively while avoiding unnecessary delays.
Although a solid rental agreement simplifies eviction procedures, the lack thereof does not imply that unlawful occupants can not be evicted.
Since an occupant can decide to vacate a property at any stage during the eviction process, the cost can significantly vary with circumstances.
The rent arrears recovery procedure is usually initiated alongside, and runs in conjunction with the application for eviction procedure.
The nature of eviction procedures allows for remote consultations. Save cost and time-consuming hassles of traffic and meetings.
Property owners are entitled to earn a decent return on their valuable investments - hassle-free and without constantly fearing possible calamity.
The first step in the eviction process. Unlawful occupants need to be notified of the property owner’s intention to have them evicted.
An application is brought before the Court to have a written notice,stating the owner’s intention to evict, served on the occupants.
A tenant can choose to oppose the eviction, ignore it or move out. The tenant’s reaction to the notice of eviction could provide an early indication of what the landlord should expect.
Elsewhere the notice to evict is also referred to as an Eviction Letter or Letter of Eviction.
Once the notice-period has lapsed, the property owner can apply for a court order known as an 'ejectment order', which authorises the Sheriff of the Court, to remove a tenant not paying rent, or any other unlawful occupants, from the property.
The eviction process is technically complex and getting an eviction order without a lawyer in South Africa is highly unlikely if at all possible.
If, for example, any of the various steps of the eviction procedure are left out, or done out of sequence, the application for an eviction order could be jeopardised, or the eviction process can be delayed.
Besides adding significantly to the legal costs, delaying the process could furthermore exacerbate the situation not only by leading to a greater loss of rental income, but also the risk of damage to the property.
Quite understandably, landlords sometimes resort to evicting undesirable tenants themselves just to find themselves in a much worse predicament than before.
Lock-outs, power-cuts and other such tactics used by a landlord- play right into the hands of tenants who refuse to move out of leased premises as they cannot be evicted by an owner of a property.
This is because the owner of a property cannot evict unlawful occupants — only the Sheriff of the Court can — and in instances where force or intimidation was used, the landlord's legal position could be compromised to the extent that the occupier is permitted to stay on the property indefinitely.
The cost of an eviction depends on many variables. We have dealt with evictions where the occupants vacated a property after the first notice - within two weeks - at a cost of around R5000 in legal fees.
However, in the event of an unopposed eviction process running right up to the ejectment by the Sheriff of the Court, it could cost anything between R20000 and R22000 (sometimes even more) and could take around 4 - 6 weeks (and in some instances even longer).
Should a tenant have grounds for opposing an eviction (due to e.g. spoliation), the cost could be much higher and the process could be delayed by months. Opposed eviction cases costing in excess of R50000 is not unheard of.
Property owners ignorant of the various laws face many pitfalls. Nowadays, unlawful occupants know their rights, and are getting increasingly familiar with remedies and support available to them, should they be evicted.
Our experienced eviction attorneys are specialising in laws dealing with commercial evictions, PIE or ESTA, for corporate and private landlords alike.
"We are extremely satisfied with the service received from them and do refer other clients to them on a regular basis." Filey Investments
"We gladly instruct Steyn & Steyn (now SSLR Incorporated)to assist as we are satisfied with the level of service received and the rates charged. I actively recommend Landlords to Steyn & Steyn for assistance when I have the opportunity to do so." Blackriver Trust
"Steyn & Steyn Attorneys (now SSLR Incorporated) have been handling all our evictions and this they have done in a very professional way. We can highly recommend them to anybody." Francob Properties
"I was especially impressed by the honesty and integrity displayed by all the staff of Steyn & Steyn (now SSLR Incorporated). Beyond the legalities these people know how to deal with clients and their consistent positive attitude has been an inspiration to me throughout this litigation." H B Botha ~ Farmer
PIE prohibits unlawful evictions but also provides eviction procedures to remove tenants not paying rent, as well as other unlawful occupants, from a property. The aim of the Act is to protect both occupiers and landowners. With the exception of areas where ESTA (see section below) applies, property owners must follow the provisions of PIE when evicting a non-paying tenant.
Grounds for eviction under PIE exist when an occupier:
ESTA specifies what a land owner must do to evict unlawful occupants of land. The act applies to people who live in rural areas, on farms and on undeveloped land, and it also protects people living on land that is encircled by a township or land within a township that is marked for agricultural purposes.
Grounds for eviction under ESTA exist when occupiers:
PIE and ESTA do not apply to the termination of lease and eviction procedures applicable to tenants of commercial and industrial properties.
Commercial and industrial eviction cases usually involve civil litigation based on the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, particular circumstances and merits of individual cases.