Home / Landlord & Tenant  / Here’s what it costs to evict a tenant

Here’s what it costs to evict a tenant

eviction resize

In evictions, the most important thing is to stop the financial bleeding. The amount of blood and pain on the landlord’s part, however, depends on factors such as a stubborn tenant who refuses to budge as well as the legal team hired.

“Some recalcitrant tenants vacate after receiving the first demand from an attorney to do so. Others put up a fight and remain in the property for longer,” says Willem le Roux, director at eviction specialist firm, Le Roux Attorneys. “The longer the fight to get the tenant out, the more expensive the eviction process. I’d say the ballpark figure is from R5,000 to R15,000.

Get bad tenants out as soon as possible – even if it means offering to write off some of the arrear rental.”

When a notice is opposedresisting

Marlon Shevelew of rental property law firm, Marlon Shevelew and Associates, says costs to evict a defaulting tenant can significantly escalate in the case of an opposed eviction.

“Fees range from R6,000 to R25,000 for an unopposed eviction, and up to R100,000 depending on the court, the province in which it is launched and whether or not it is opposed,” he says, noting that these costs will come out of the landlord’s pocket, though they can be passed on to the tenant.

South Africa’s official unemployment statistics reveal that a quarter of the workforce does not earn a regular income, with many sectors bleeding thousands of jobs every year – a case in point is Witbank’s stalwart employer, Highveld Steel and Vanadium which closed shop last month, retrenching more than 2,000 workers.

In cases such as these, rental defaults will be very high and if the legal route is followed from start to finish – which can take up to 18 months – a landlord may battle to recoup legal costs and court fees, as well as outstanding rental from tenants.

“Presupposing you have an eviction order and a Sheriff is there to forcibly remove the tenants, the cost depends on the size of the property and the number of tenants,” says Michelle Dickens, MD of Tenant Profile Network. “It is notoriously difficult to claim for these costs as part of the overall damages and legal costs. For example, there was a case involving 200 families which cost R2m for the Sheriff to evict the tenants.

“Landlords who have an illegal occupant in the property and who have not performed unfair practise, will always obtain their eviction order successfully. The real question is, if the tenant is a woman-headed household with young children, disabled or elderly, will the courts still grant an eviction order? The courts will grant an eviction order but will allow additional time for the tenant to vacate the property.”

Can you back your jockey in court?horse riding jockey

Le Roux notes that landlords and their attorneys should be very sure of winning in court, as a loss will see landlords owning money to the court and attorney, as well as being stuck with the same tenant.

“It might take some time, but if the attorney handling the matter knows what he or she is doing, then the client should be successful,” he says. “A case with doubtful prospects of success should not be in court – the parties should rather seek to settle. If the attorney handling the case is not experienced in eviction matters, then the risk of losing the case increases exponentially.”

Dickens agrees, saying that while evictions are costly, using an attorney who is not well versed in the technical aspects of evictions can end up delaying the process which costs the landlord more in loss of rentals due to the process having to be reset.

“For example: a letter of demand is addressed to only one of the tenants and not addressed to both co-tenants,” says Dickens. “In this instance, even though the lease was cancelled with tenant 1, the whole 20 day letter of demand process has to be resent to cancel the lease for both tenants.”eviction costs

Thankfully, however, there are a number of products on the market that assist in rental guarantees. One of them is RentMaster which was established in 2003 and effectively safeguards landlords’ investments by providing rent guarantees.

Its MD, Deon Botha, says, “Landlords’ biggest risk when faced with a non-paying squatting tenant is the uncertainty and loss of cash flow required to fund the costly legal eviction process. RentMaster takes on the risk of tenant non-payment, thereby providing the landlord with the certainty of knowing that the rent will be paid to the landlord on the first of the month guaranteed. And as a bonus, RentMaster will also fund and manage the daunting eviction process.

“We charge 4.56% of the rent plus R60 per month (incl VAT). On a R5,000 per month rental that translates to R288 per month.”

Visit RentMaster for more information.



David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Review overview
  • Denis 10th March 2016

    I have read this article with interest. I am a landlord and property owner who on occasion have been forced to evict non-paying tenants or vandals out of my property. While it is true that the eviction process may be long it is my experience that the “Lawyers” who advertise or claim exorbitant fees are ineffective or embarking on fear mongering. I as a rule take a deposit equal to two months rent plus three months utilities consumption. This is in most instances sufficient to pay for the upfront cost of legal action.

  • Denis 12th March 2016

    David, we are particularly strict with the minimum deposit. We have the luxury of a very low “Gearing” ratio. I.E. small bonds. We therefore can wait for the “right” tenant. We only take employed individuals. In the past three years I can only recall one applicant who objected. We try to make it particularly attractive to the tenants by keeping a well maintained property and offer lower than market rentals. A carrot and stick approach. We have found that providing fair and balanced agreements and service has returned results. The effect is with the TPN solution and network we relegate, by a natural process, the unwanted tenants to make use and rent from the less than ethical landlords and their excessive rents. Effectively bad tenants disqualify themselves.

  • Errol 19th June 2016

    Indeed an interesting article.
    Is the law different for business or industrial properties?
    I have just bought two light industrial units of 105m² that I will be renting out and will appreciate if I can read up on my and the tenants rights. To be read in conjunction with the rental agreement…

  • Denis 20th June 2016


    There is a significant difference between residential and retail /commercial / industrial rental. The main difference is the Rental Housing Act,act 50 of 1999 and its regulations in terms of section 15 of the act.

    The RHA only applies to the lease of “dwellings” and thus commercial / industrial leases fall outside the act.

    The PIE act however still applies as you will need to prove illegal occupation in the event the tenant defaults. This is true for residential / retail / commercial / industrial properties.

    The Consumer Protection Act, namely Section 14 of the act, however still needs to be navigated. The “saving grace” is that in most instances the tenant in a retail / commercial / industrial lease are juristic persons and thus no protection is afforded to such tenants. I would still suggest however that you back your lease agreement up with a “deed of surety” from directors / members / trustees. You will however need to adjust your approach and or modus operandi if your tenant is an individual. The most significant difference is under Section 14 of the CPA you will need to give an individual 20 working days notice in the event the tenant defaults as opposed to a juristic person you can insert a clause in your lease agreement given 7 days notice (not working day) in the event of the tenants default.

    Keep to the regime of doing credit profile checks and taking large deposits.

    One third of our portfolio is Retail properties. We have found that in poor economic times the commercial rental income come under significant pressure and our rentals become more elastic as opposed to our residential properties, when demand, and thus the rentals, are higher. The converse is true in good economic times. In good economic times our commercial properties achieve higher rentals but the residential properties do poorly.

    Good luck in your endeavour