How was a homeowner evicted from her own property?
In a bizarre twist of events, a homeowner has been evicted from her own property. If you didn’t think that was even possible, it is! An immediate order of eviction was handed down in the Springs Magistrate’s Court on August 28, 2015, in favour of the tenant who had occupied the property during the previous year.
“Landlords faced with non-paying tenants are sometimes deeply frustrated by delinquent tenants and feel further financial pressure due to the accumulating expenses of the property,” says managing director of TPN, Michelle Dickens. “The law is very clear, however, that a landlord must follow due process through the courts to secure an eviction order. Understandably, landlords are frustrated due to the average three month process and the R20,000 cost of an eviction order, but our tried-and-tested advice remains: there is a shortage of rental stock and one can deduce then, that there is an oversupply of tenants but not an oversupply of quality tenants. Take the time to thoroughly screen your tenants and avoid legal action and the ensuing drama when dealing with delinquent tenants.”
The situation where the landlord was evicted unfolded when a lease agreement came to the end of its term without being renewed. The tenant remained in the property on a month-to-month basis, as is allowed for in terms of section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act. After not receiving the rental due for July, the owner sent a letter of demand giving the tenant seven days to pay and a warning of imminent cancellation. When the rent was still not paid, the landlord opted to terminate the lease and sent a notice to the tenant to cancel the agreement together with a notice to vacate the property within 24 hours.
The tenant’s lawyer immediately instructed the rental agent that the notice to vacate was seen to be unfair and unrealistic as the tenant needed more time to secure alternative accommodation and insisted that one calendar month notice be given. The lawyer further confirmed that the tenant would be paying the outstanding rent on August 28 – almost a month late and on the date that the landlord had made it known she would be moving back into her own property.
At this point, things took a turn for the worse! The landlord took it upon herself to boot the tenant out of the property. Notably, this was not the first time he had defaulted on his rental, partially paid or paid late. On top of that, the electricity meter had been tampered with on three different occasions resulting in a bill of R12,675.20 in municipal reinstatement fees. The landlord accessed the property on August 28 and promptly moved the tenant’s belongings into the garage and moved her own possessions back into her home.
The tenant, who received a call from his domestic worker, rushed home to find his possessions forcibly being removed. He immediately contacted the SAPS and on their advice, applied to the Magistrate’s Court for urgent relief. He claimed that he had no other accommodation and nowhere to store his furniture which meant that there was a real chance that he may suffer a loss through theft. The Magistrate ordered the landlord to “immediately return occupation and control” to the tenant and place him in possession of the keys to the premises. It was further held that the Sheriff be authorised to evict the landlord and that the landlord pay the costs of the court application.
In this instance, the landlord’s only recourse would be to apply to the court for an eviction order which would cost in the region of R20,000 to R30,000 in legal fees.