When is a tenant an illegal occupant?

corien newsletter depiction.inddWhere the Contract of Lease is breached in any way by the tenant and he or she after receiving notice thereof has not remedied such a breach within the period agreed upon, then the landlord may cancel the contract. The tenant will be found to be an illegal occupier in this instance.

Where a tenant fails to perform as agreed upon in his Lease agreement, he will be found to be in breach of that agreement. An example of this is a failure to pay rent timeously or at all. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing of his decision to terminate the contract by means of a letter of cancellation, allowing the tenant a reasonable period, or such timeframe as agreed upon in terms of such a lease, to vacate the property.

If the tenant chooses to ignore the notice of cancellation of the lease agreement by remaining on the property and continuing to use and enjoy it, the tenant will be regarded as an illegal occupier of the property. The same applies if the tenant continues to occupy the property after the expiration of the initial lease period. An illegal occupier may be evicted from the rented property by the landlord or owner. This will be done at a Magistrate’s or High Court and for that the services of a lawyer will be required.

There is no longer a Common Law right to evict someone. Instead the owner or landlord must follow the procedures and provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of land Act 19 of 1998 (hereinafter referred to as the “PIE Act”). The tenant must be notified of the pending action, by means of a Notice of Intention to Evict and this must be done at least 14 days before the date of the court hearing. This notice must also be sent to the respective Municipality involved.

On the date of the hearing, the court will consider factors such as whether the person is an unlawful occupier, whether the owner has reasonable grounds for eviction and alternative accommodation available to the tenant. It is now considered a criminal offence to evict someone without a court order to that effect. Constructive eviction, for instance, where a landlord cuts the water or electricity supply to the property in order to “drive” the tenants out, is a criminal offence.

The type of action or application that your legal representative will bring will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the matter. Such actions or applications can be heard in the Magistrate’s or High Court, depending on the value of the occupation and not the leased property value. The lease agreement may also have a clause embodied in it where the parties agree to a particular court’s jurisdiction, where upon that will be followed. If the court proceedings are successful a Warrant of Ejectment may be issued, whereupon the owner or landlord may proceed with the eviction of the illegal occupier.

Once the owner or the proprietor of the leased property has followed all the prescribed procedures as laid out in the PIE Act and they have established that their tenant is considered an unlawful occupier then they may proceed with the above-mentioned steps in order to evict them from their property.

An unlawful occupier may be removed from the premises upon the instruction of an Eviction Order / Warrant of Eviction with the assistance of the Sheriff of the respective court at a minimal fee. The steps laid out in the PIE Act are simple to understand and follow allowing a transparent and fair chance to both the landlord and the tenant in these difficult situations.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Public Nuisances: Legal rights in terms of legislation

corien newsletter depiction.inddPersons who commit disruptive acts of unacceptable behaviour in public places may be warned, arrested and subsequently prosecuted by the authorities. The offender shall be liable for a fine, imprisonment or both upon conviction. How is this enforcement of our rights achieved by an ordinary citizen?

A public nuisance is a criminal wrong; it is an act or omission that obstructs, damages, or inconveniences the rights of the community. The term public nuisance covers a wide variety of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience or welfare of a community.[1]

Legislation offers relief in this respect, in specific by-laws of local Municipalities. A by-law is a law that is passed by the Council of a municipality to regulate the affairs and the services it provides within its area of jurisdiction[2]. A municipality derives the powers to pass a by-law from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

With regards to Public Nuisances one would look to By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances, 2007[3]. The main body of this by-law lists certain acts that are deemed prohibited behaviour and are therewith criminalised. Various acts including begging, using abusive or threatening language, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing a disturbance by shouting, screaming or making any other loud or persistent noise or sound, including amplified noise or sound are listed therein.[4]

Should anyone and his conduct fall within this definition and perform any or multiple prohibited acts of public nuisance, the authorities are to be alerted immediately. The authorities have the power to instruct the offender to immediately cease the offending behaviour, failing which he will be guilty of an offence.

Section 23 states that any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this by-law or disobeys any instruction by the authorities enforcing this by-law, shall be guilty of an offence. This offender shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

It is therefore evident that by identifying certain acts of unacceptable, aggressive, threatening, abusive or obstructive behaviour of persons in public the offender may be ordered to immediately cease such offending conduct or be arrested for not complying with any order to do so.

Reference List:

  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/za/by-law/cape-town/2007/streets-public-places-noise-nuisances/
  1. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public Nuisance
  1. http://openbylaws.org.za/
  1. https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/bylaws/Pages/Home.aspx

[1]http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public Nuisance

[2]https://www.capetown.gov.za/en/bylaws/Pages/Home.aspx

[3]http://openbylaws.org.za/za/by-law/cape-town/2007/streets-public-places-noise-nuisances/

[4]Section 2 By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances, 2007

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Can I still make a case of unfair labour practice if I have settled?

corien newsletter depiction.inddIn this article we will discuss whether, in the face of an agreement between an employer and an employee in terms of which an employee accepts a demotion to a lower position, the employee is nevertheless entitled to refer an unfair labour practice dispute concerning this demotion to the CCMA.

The facts in Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others[1] can be summarised as follows: The employee worked as an Administrative Manager at Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd. She was informed by doctors that she was very ill and would most likely have to go to hospital frequently and take various types of medication. Over the next three years her absenteeism increased significantly and her employers became concerned as she was no longer able to do her job effectively, even when she was not absent, due to the side effects of her medication. Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd, after having discussions with the employee, suspended her pending an investigation into her capacity to undertake the functions of an Administrative Manager, taking into account her health and performance. Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd held an incapacity hearing and the external Chairperson ruled that, due to the employee’s excessive and increasing absenteeism, dismissal was the appropriate sanction. The Chairperson, however, offered her a demotion instead of a dismissal. The employee accepted this demotion in writing.

After this agreement between Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd and the employee was concluded, she obtained legal assistance and subsequently complained to the CCMA that Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd had committed an unfair labour practice by demoting her.

The question here is whether, in the face of an agreement between Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd in terms of which the employee accepted demotion to a lower position, she was nevertheless entitled to refer an unfair labour practice dispute concerning this demotion to the CCMA.[2]

The arbitrator in the CCMA decided that because there was consent to the demotion, the CCMA did not have jurisdiction to hear the dispute. The employee then appealed to the Labour Court and once again to the Labour Appeal Court, of which the outcomes are set out below.

The Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court looked at Section 186(2)(a) of the Labour Relations Act[3] in this regard, which states the following:

“Unfair labour practice means any unfair act or omission that arises between an employer and an employee involving –

Unfair conduct by the employer relating to the promotion, demotion, probation (excluding disputes about dismissals for a reason relating to probation) or training of an employee or relating to the provision of benefits.”

The Labour Appeal Court upheld the judgement in the Labour Court and found that although a binding contract comes into existence when employers and employees settle their differences by agreement, such an agreement does not mean that the CCMA does not have jurisdiction to hear the dispute. The fact that the parties have agreed that the employee accepts demotion is not a complete defence for the employer because the ambit of this unfair labour practice is wide enough to include the implementation of an agreement to accept demotion.[4] The Labour Appeal Court confirmed that the determination of whether a demotion took place, unlike the determination of dismissal, does not require an arbitrator to determine if there was consent or not.[5]

In conclusion, it is clear from the Builders Warehouse case that, although consent is a relevant issue in regard to the merits of a dispute regarding an unfair labour practice, it is not a jurisdictional prerequisite. This means that the CCMA does have the power to hear a matter relating to a demotion even though there was consent thereto.

Bibliography

  • Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (PA 1/14) [2015] ZALAC
  • Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995

[1] (PA 1/14) [2015] ZALAC.

[2] (PA 1/14) [2015] ZALAC Par 12.

[3] Act 66 of 1995.

[4] Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration

[5] Builders Warehouse (Pty) Ltd v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (PA 1/14) [2015] ZALAC Par 13.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

The Credit agreement

corien newsletter depiction.inddIf you default on a credit agreement and action is taken against you by the credit provider, you still have time, according to Section 129(3)(b) read with 129(3)(a) and S129(4) of the National Credit Act (“NCA”)[1] as well as the case of Firstrand Bank Limited v Nomsa Nkata[2] to re-instate the credit agreement until the goods have been sold in execution.

Prior to the National Credit Act coming into force, the position regarding the right of a consumer to re-instate a credit agreement was determined by the principle of redemption in common law. According to this principle, a consumer would be able to re-instate the credit agreement by paying the credit provider the full amount of the debt, together with ‘default charges’ and reasonable costs of enforcing the agreement. According to the National Credit Act, ownership and possession of an item or premises can be redeemed by paying only the amount overdue at that date, together with charges and costs.

The issue, however, is at which point it becomes too late to pay the amount overdue in the execution process. This issue was addressed in the recent case of FirstRand Bank Limited v Nomsa Nkata.[3] Section 129(3) and (4) of the NCA states the following:

(3) Subject to subsection (4), a consumer may –

(a) at any time before the credit provider has cancelled the agreement re-instate a credit agreement that is in default by paying to the credit provider all amounts that are overdue, together with the credit provider’s permitted default charges and reasonable costs of enforcing the agreement up to the time of re-reinstatement; and –

(b) after complying with paragraph (a), may resume possession of any property that had been repossessed by the credit provider pursuant to an attachment order.

 (4) A consumer may not re-instate a credit agreement after –

 (a) The sale of any property pursuant to –

 (i) an attachment order; or

 (ii) surrender of property in terms of section 127;

 (b) The execution of any other court order enforcing that agreement; or

 (c) The termination thereof in accordance with section 123.”

The Supreme Court of Appeal found in the FirstRand Bank Limited case that in terms of both the common law as well as the NCA, “the Rubicon has been, and remains the sale in execution.” This means that at any point up until the time of the sale in execution, the consumer can put a halt to the execution proceedings and reinstate the agreement by paying the amount overdue, together with charges and costs.

The reason that the above provision was placed in the NCA was to make provision for the fact that many consumers borrow money over an extended period in order to finance the acquisition of large purchases such as a home or a motor vehicle. It was also noted in the above judgment that less affluent citizens may make use of extended credit to purchase household items and appliances. Therefore the NCA assists consumers in providing them with the option of paying the overdue amount rather than having to pay the entire amount of the debt.

The Court established in the FirstRand Bank Limited case that Section 129(4) (b) can only be used before the sale has taken place and not thereafter. Once the sale has taken place the credit agreement cannot be re-instated between the consumer and the credit provider. Should you find yourself in the temporary position of not being able to pay the monthly installments of your credit agreement but are able to pay those installments at a later stage, and to not want to cancel the credit agreement, then it is imperative that you pay the money which is overdue to the Credit Provider prior to any sale in execution as you will not be able to re-instate the agreement thereafter.

Bibliography

  • National Credit Act, 34 of 2005
  • Firstrand Bank Limited v Nomsa Nkata, (213/14) [2015] ZASCA 44 (26 March 2015)

[1] 34 of 2005

[2] (213/14) [2015] ZASCA 44(26 March 2015)

[3] (213/14) [2015] ZASCA 44(26 March 2015)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)