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5 things an attorney wishes landlords knew about evictions

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1 Ownership rights outweigh occupation rights

While there are procedures in place pertaining to residential evictions, legislation such as the Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act balances this out. The fact that owners are entitled to obtain eviction orders confirms this right. Divorce is the best analogy. While you may have a court order to get divorced, you still have rights as a spouse if you are in an unhappy or abusive marriage.

2 Residential evictions are technical

If an attorney is not well-versed in residential evictions, it can lead to a protracted, costly process. Owners should therefore employ a specialist they can trust. They should also consider educating themselves on the process via books or blogs – an attorney can provide direction on suitable reading material. Additional knowledge will help landlords ease some of the stress associated with an eviction.

3 Alternative methods don’t work

Too many owners approach attorneys after trying varying creative – and illegal – approaches to get rid of problem tenants. By this time, the owner has often given the tenant sufficient ammunition to delay the eviction. This in turn can lead to frustration, a strained relationship between the landlord and tenant, and an opposed eviction – effectively wasting more time and money. In terms of arbitrary evictions, once the Rental Housing Amendment Act is promulgated, these actions will be criminalised and punishable by jail or fines.

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4 The court order is not the end of the process

Once the attorney obtains the eviction order, the tenant has a specific time period in which to vacate the premises. If this does not happen, the attorney instructs an officer to undertake the physical eviction. The sheriff determines these costs, which differ between cases. The attorney has little control over this part of the process. In many situations, the sheriff requires assistance from the South African Police Service, which can further delay the eviction. If owners are unprepared for this part of the process, it can also lead to frustration.

5 Communication needs to happen through the attorney

Once the lease agreement has been cancelled or eviction proceedings commence, contacting the illegal occupant can cause untold problems. For example, if the lease is cancelled and the owner communicates with the occupant, indicating an agreement still exists, it may lead to its tacit reinstatement. This means the whole process restarts. Hence, once landlords give instructions to the attorney, it’s essential to communicate through the attorney.

“If an attorney is not well-versed in residential evictions, it can lead to a protracted, costly process”

Cilna Steyn is an attorney specialising in evictions and is the founding partner and MD of SSLR Incorporated. She is the author of The Landlord’s Guide – Property Rental and Eviction, and publishes articles regularly.

Words Cilna Steyn
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