No property owner ever wants to evict a tenant, but if ever you find yourself in this situation, it would be wise to acquaint yourself with the The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 1998 (“PIE Act”). We asked Sonja Wijnja, RentMaster’s legal officer to break it down for us.
“Whereas the Rental Housing Act (RHA) deals with the duties and rights of both landlord and tenant, the PIE is more focused on preventing the unlawful eviction of tenants and spelling out the legal procedures that landlords should follow to remove unlawful occupant. As such, it is a much more challenging read than the RHA, and is fraught with procedural complexities.”
According to Sonja the two most important things you need to know about the PIE Act are:
- You cannot evict a tenant unless the tenant is he is an unlawful occupier. This is usually because the lease has been cancelled.
- You may not forcefully put tenants out of your property – whether by changing the locks, chasing them away or moving other people into the property. A tenant may only be evicted if a Judge has had oversight and ordered an eviction.
In Sonja’s opinion the biggest mistake landlords make is to assume that they can take the law into their own hands if the tenant did not pay. “If you remove the door; move other people into the property or forcefully evict the tenant yourself without any court action, you will not have a leg to stand on in court.”
If, for example, a tenant has not paid the rent, he must be informed in writing and must be given fair notice to remedy the matter. It is only after the tenant has failed to perform in spite of having been given fair opportunity to redress the situation that he is deemed an illegal occupant. (See our Nuts & Bolts article on this topic.)
The landlord may now appeal to the court to evict the tenant, but the magistrate might still not rule in the landlord’s favour. She will take factors such as whether the tenant is unemployed, a single mother, elderly or infirm or other mitigating circumstances into consideration before making a decision. She might, for example, rule that the tenant be given more time to find alternative accommodation in terms of the Act’s provision that a tenant is offered a “just and equitable time to find alternative accommodation”.
“Alternatively, you can appoint RentMaster to administer your rental collection – we collect the rent so well that we last needed to evict a tenant in 2015.”