Property owners warned against squatters
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Property owners whose land is illegally occupied, have to take legal action within six months or face lengthy and expensive legal battles - and perhaps have to provide alternative accommodation for the illegal occupiers.
The land invasion issues have been raised following reports that an elderly Pretoria couple had to abandon their Sweet Homes property near Mitchells Plain last week. About 900 illegal squatters occupied the land and refused to move despite the couple’s attempts to evict them over 20 years.
According to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (Pie) Act, if an unlawful occupier lived on the land for less than six months at the time legal proceedings began, a court may grant an eviction order. If it is later than six months the land owner may have to provide the invaders with alternative accommodation - and if the illegal occupants refuse to move, the owner could face a costly court battle.
Unlike the Trespass Act which allowed for eviction within 48 hours, Pie’s eviction procedures were longer. The City of Cape Town used the Trespass Act as soon as a land invasion was reported while groups such as the Anti Eviction Campaign used the Pie Act to resist evictions.
Steve Hayward, head of City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit (Aliu) said all landowners were responsible for the protection of their own properties against invasions and unlawful occupation. “By failing to take immediate action in removing squatters, the landowner faces huge legal costs in an eviction process that could take years. Besides losing the land completely, the owner could also be held liable for the municipal legal expenses if action has to be taken,” he said.
Forest Ndathane, who said he represented Sweet Homes residents, said: “There have been no previous talks or negotiations with the owners. I, as a community leader, haven’t even spoken to them before so how can they expect us to negotiate if there’s no communication. They can’t just expect us to go.”
Residents claimed their rights have been violated because the city did not provide them with services. They complained of high TB rates, HIV infection, unemployment and crime. There are land invasion cases across the peninsula where private landowners struggle to evict illegal occupants. In Haji Ebrahim Crescent in Athlone, a land owner who had been living in Canada failed to take action against 40 families who took illegal occupation of his land in 1990.
In Olieboom Road, Philippi the landowner has been struggling to evict 600 families who have illegally occupied his property since 1988.
In Goliath Estate, Kraaifontein the owner of a residential property failed to evict a dozen shack dwellers over an 11-year period. He is now unable to sell the property to a developer. - Cape Times