Residential evictions in South Africa are governed by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No. 19 of 1998 (“PIE”). This legislation was enacted to regulate both the lawful eviction of unlawful occupiers, and the recognition of land owners’ rights to approach the courts for an eviction order.

The right to housing is a vital and primary need for each person, and PIE is deeply rooted in the Constitutional principles that no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court. Even though the main purpose of PIE is to ensure that tenants are protected from any unlawful evictions, this does not mean that unlawful occupiers can’t be evicted; it simply means that the correct procedures must be followed by the landlord/owner.

Although PIE is intended to help protect vulnerable and easily exploited groups, it does in effect mean that unlawful occupiers could stay in your property for an indefinite period of time in accordance with what the courts deem as being just and equitable under the circumstances.

The question is how quickly can you evict a tenant and replace him/her with a new one, considering that every month you are suffering a loss of rental, potential damage to property and legal costs. Unfortunately, the current procedure to evict a tenant in our law is not built for speed and often appears to favour the unlawful occupier. Acquiring an eviction order can be quite time consuming.