Since evicting a tenant ranks among landlords’ biggest concerns, these are the top 5 things eviction attorneys wish landlords knew about evictions:
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 (PIE) balance this out. The fact that owners are entitled to obtain eviction orders confirms this right. Divorce is the best analogy; While you need a court order to get divorced, you still have rights as a spouse if you are in an unhappy or in an abusive marriage. The fact that you need a court order does not mean that you do not have the right, it simply means you cannot enforce the right without a court order.
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 very creative, yet 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 in most cases an opposed eviction, 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.
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 great 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”