Property owners’ eviction demand denied

BY SUPPLIED - JANUARY 28, 2015

A recent high court judgement highlights the delicate balance of tenants’ right to housing set against the property owners’ common law right to exclusive possession of their property and the State’s obligation to provide adequate housing for South African citizens.

Michelle Dickens, Managing Director of TPN Credit Bureau notes, “Tenant payment information for Q3 2014 reveals 86% of tenants are in good standing; property owners are saddled with 5% of tenants who do not pay their rent. Although not all of these tenants will require legal action to regain possession of the property, the benefit of credit vetting and affordability assessment of prospective tenants should not be under-estimated.“

Judgment in the case of All Building and Cleaning Services CC v Matlaila and Others was handed down on 16 January 2015. In essence the judge made a finding based on the 44 year tenure of the occupants, the fact the occupants were elderly and the real possibility they would be left homeless, and the occupants allegation that the current property owners or agents acting on their behalf had attempted to forcibly remove the tenants. And for these reasons the court denied the property owner their request for eviction and possession of their property.

Elize Le Roux, director at SSLR Inc, previously Steyn, Steyn and Partners, acting on behalf of the property owners explains, “It is of paramount importance to realise that this is a unique case, it did not originate from a normal lease agreement or auction-bought property, and as such it should not be seen as the way Courts typically approach evictions. “

Le Roux further points out, “It is the duty of each and every landowner to ensure, that when they are faced with an illegal occupant that they follow the correct procedure to obtain the eviction order to ensure that they do not give the Court an opportunity to reach conclusions that erodes the rights of property owners.

“Consequently the age, period of residence and other relevant factors to be considered by The PIE (Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and the Unlawful Occupation of Land) Act will not overshadow the owner’s Constitutional rights and it can only be found to be just and equitable for an eviction to be granted.”

In conclusion, the rights of landowners are protected by the Constitution. It is of crucial importance to protect these rights in order to preserve investor confidence.  For this SSLR Inc have been instructed to apply for leave to appeal against this decision and will hopefully be able to restore certainty and confidence for property owners.