How to evict a non-paying tenant

Investing in rental properties is an excellent way of securing income for retirement. It is, till it isn’t. And that happens when tenants don’t pay, and it becomes necessary to evict them.

The eviction process in South Africa is governed by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE), which provides certain protections for tenants.

The law is clear that a certain process must be followed. Landlords can’t just remove the tenant’s belongings and change the locks. These are the legal steps:

Step 1: Provide written notice to pay

The landlord provides a written notice to the tenant that they are in breach of their rental agreement and that they must pay their outstanding rent or vacate the premises. The notice should provide the tenant with a reasonable amount of time to rectify the breach. If there is no written lease agreement, the tenant must be given one calendar month’s notice to pay.

Step 2: Provide written notice to vacate

If no payment has been received, the landlord has the right to terminate the lease agreement and inform the tenant in writing by when they must vacate the premises.

Step 3: The Rental Housing Tribunal (optional)

If the tenant fails to pay their rent or vacate the premises, the landlord can file a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal. The complaint should include a copy of the written notice and any other relevant documentation.

Step 4: Obtain a court order

If the Rental Housing Tribunal can’t resolve the dispute, or if the landlord did not approach them, he can apply to the Magistrate’s Court or High Court (depending on jurisdiction) for an eviction order. The application should include a copy of the written notice, proof of non-payment of rent, and any other relevant documentation.

The court will provide the landlord with a date and time when the eviction application will be heard. Fourteen days before this date, the sheriff will serve the tenant and the municipality where the property is located with a written notice of the date of the eviction hearing.

Step 5: The eviction hearing

The court proceedings will give the tenant an opportunity to state the reason why they weren’t paying rent and shouldn’t be evicted. If the court determines that the tenant has a valid defence, then a trial date is set for the tenant to present their evidence. (see Step 6)

If there’s no valid defence, the court will issue a Warrant of Eviction that authorises the sheriff to remove the tenant and his possessions from the property. (see Step 7)

Step 6: The trial

If the court rules that the tenant didn’t have a valid defence it will issue a Warrant of Eviction.

Step 7: The Warrant of Eviction

Once the eviction order has been granted, the sheriff is authorised to remove the tenant and their possessions from the property.