Evictions law unfair, say landlords

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THE STAR

Landlord Arrigo Ferri is trying to get a court order to have his tenants evicted. File photo: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Landlords battling to evict tenants who owe them thousands of rand in rent and services claim that some South African laws are unfair as they protect unscrupulous tenants over landlords.

Leno Zulu and Bronwen Oeschger said it was frustrating that their tenants had been occupying their properties rent-free for months.

The process of evicting them had become costly and arduous due to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (Pie) of 1998.

The act was put in place to prevent landowners and landlords from randomly evicting tenants from their properties. It stated that no one may be evicted from their home or have their home demolished without a court order.

The complaint comes as Arrigo Ferri, 55, appeared in court on Tuesday for the sixth time.

He is trying to have his tenants evicted from his Bedfordview townhouse. Ferri said they had taken out a protection order against him, barring him from entering his own property to ask them to pay rent.

However, an attorney who assists people who find themselves at the mercy of landlords who want to evict them disagrees with the assessment.

Tashwill Esterhuizen, an attorney at the Socio Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, said the act was put into the place because, historically, landowners would evict tenants unfairly from their land or properties.

“I don’t agree with the statement that the act protects tenants more than landlords. Not all landlords are fair, therefore one needs a court order to evict tenants,” he said.

An angry Zulu said she and her husband had spent R17 000 on lawyers in trying to evict their tenant, who had been living in their Mondeor townhouse rent-free for 10 months.

Zulu said the tenant owed R60 000 in rent and R20 000 for water and lights. She said they had disconnected the water and lights at the property, but the tenant had had them re-connected. They also tried to lock her out, only to find that she had changed their locks.

“The Pie Act has made it difficult for landlords to remove tenants. While she makes use of Legal Aid services, we fork out money to attorneys.

“She told us she won’t move because her child attends school in the area and has made friends there. She has also put in dead bolts from inside the house to prevent the sheriff coming in,” Zulu said.

Oeschger agreed with Zulu. She said the law meant well when it was put into place because it was aimed at those who could not defend themselves from unpleasant landlords, but that it was “far too one-sided” and that it should be balanced.

She said she had let out her cancer-stricken father’s large Randpark Ridge house for R13 500 a month to a family of seven. A problem arose when the tenant questioned a large water bill.

Things went downhill from there, Oeschger said.

Today, her tenants owed her sick father R81 000 for six months’ rent and R57 000 for water and lights. They refused to move out, Oeschger said.

“I have already spent R40 000 on legal fees and we still don’t have a court date yet. There’s no justification for us landlords to have to go through all this,” she said.

Esterhuizen said many landlords claimed they were evicting tenants because they were in arrears, but that there was a court process which needed to be followed.

“It is not up to the landlord to decide when to evict a tenant. He can’t just come and say ‘I want you out, I’m evicting you’. In this case, who is more vulnerable? It will be up to the court to decide what will be fair under these circumstances.”

A Joburg advocate, who declined to give his name, agreed with Zulu and Oeschger.

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