How can I evict my tenant lawfully?

You’ve discovered that the tenant renting your apartment has damaged several appliances, including the floor tiles due to irresponsible behaviour. Therefore, you have decided to terminate the lease contract and evict the tenant. Are you allowed to do that and how do you get started?

Firstly, there has to be valid reasons to evict a tenant, such as the example above. Even if you do have a valid reason to pursue eviction, a legal process has to be followed if you want to stay within the law. The first step is to cancel the lease contract with the tenant and let the tenant know that it’s cancelled and the reasons why. After the contract is terminated, the tenant would be occupying the premises illegally. You can then go to a court with an eviction application or “ejectment order”. When you do this you will be required to prove that the contract with the tenant was properly terminated and that the reasons for doing so were valid.

It’s important to make sure the reasons you want to evict the tenant are valid. This is because tenants are protected by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, No. 19 of 1998. You cannot just evict a tenant because you don’t like them.

Other grounds for an eviction

Besides a tenant causing serious damage to a property there are two other grounds for an eviction. The obvious one is the tenant not paying his/her rent after having been told to do so. Another reason is the tenant using the property for anything other than was agreed upon in the contract. A tenant who opens a business in the apartment they are renting would be in breach of their contract if it was agreed to be rented for residential purposes only.

What happens at the court?

The eviction application can be taken to the Magistrate’s Court or the High Court. Court proceedings will follow, which the tenant should be notified about. It’s very likely that the tenant will deny any wrongdoing and say the eviction doesn’t have good grounds. If this is the case, they can inform the court. A dispute and court case may ensue, the outcome of which would depend on the evidence of what happened. Therefore, if you are considering evicting a tenant, make sure your reasons are clear and that there is evidence for the eviction. If the tenant broke property on your premises because of being irresponsible, then that could be solid evidence.

Dealing with the tenant

The tenant may agree that they have done something wrong or simply decided not to oppose the eviction, in which case the court would issue an ejectment order. The ejectment order will force the tenant to leave the property, which will be carried out by the Sheriff of the Court. It’s important to remember that the landlord is not allowed to personally remove tenants from their premises. Leave that to the authorities. Furthermore, the court may order the tenant to pay the legal costs of the landlord.

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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)

Government administrators making wrong decisions

Occasionally, government administrations make decisions that people don’t understand or agree with. In cases such as these there are procedures to follow that ensures administrative justice. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act allows you to have a say in matters that affect your rights.

The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act of 2000 (PAJA) gives people the right to fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action. Furthermore, it gives the right for individuals to be provided with reasons for any administrative actions that affect them negatively.

Administrative action?

If a person applies for an ID, for example, home affairs has to decide on whether or not the person should get one. They could perhaps decide that an ID should not be granted. This process is an example of an administrative action.

Government departments, the police, the army and parastatals such as ESKOM all make up the administration. PAJA applies when a decision made by the administration has a negative effect on someone’s rights. Maybe someone has been denied a work permit, for example, and the administrator did not give specific or good reasons why. PAJA gives them right to know what the reasons were and why they were made.

What does PAJA do?

PAJA requires that administrative decisions follow fair procedures and it allows you to have a say before a decision is made with possible negative implications to your rights. Those who make administrative decisions also have to clearly explain their decisions and tell you about any internal appeals within their department. You are also allowed to ask a court to review their decision when it’s made. An important benefit of PAJA is that you can request the reasons for their decisions.

Know your rights

Administrators are not allowed to simply make decisions without consulting you in several ways first. First, they have to tell you what decisions they are planning to make and how they will affect you. They also have to give you enough time to respond to their plan.

When a decision has been taken and it has negatively affected your rights, administrators must give you a clear statement of what they decided and a notice of your right to review the decision. They also have to give you notice that you can request written reasons for their decision, which you should pursue if you believe an administrators decision was unreasonable or unlawful.

These are some reasons that would make an administrative decision unlawful:

  • There was no good reason for the decision.
  • The decision-maker was not authorised to do so by legislation.
  • The person who took the action applied the law incorrectly.

What can you do?

If a decision has been made that you believe contravenes your rights, you can request that the particular department provide reasons for the decision, if reasons have not already been given. The request should be in submitted in writing and within 90 days of the decision having been made. If you don’t agree with the decision or reasons, you can go through an internal appeal. This step must be taken before you can take further action. Government administrations will usually have their own internal appeals process, which they should notify you about. If you’re still not happy you can complain directly to the department involved or go to a court to take the matter further. Going to court is expensive so it’s advisable to settle the matter through internal appeals, if possible.

Reference:

Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act 3 of 2000) Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Accessed: http://www.justice.gov.za/paja. 09/05/2016.

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)

I bought something that doesn’t work

Sarah buys furniture from Mark who promised her that the furniture is of good quality. However, he doesn’t notify her about problems with the furniture. Later, Sarah discovers that some of the chairs she bought have faulty joints, meaning they can’t be used properly. This is what’s called a latent defect and Sarah will be able to claim from Mark for the furniture not fulfilling its purpose.

A patent defect or a latent defect?

A patent defect is when there’s a problem with a purchased item but it was clearly visible and obvious to the buyer when the contract was signed. If the furniture that Sarah bought had a patent defect, such as a chair leg missing, it would be assumed that she knew about it and the law would not protect her.

NOTE: A defect is something that makes the product less useful or completely useless. A product not looking as good as you thought is not a defect. A piece of furniture with a stain on it can still be used normally. If the product has broken or missing parts, meaning it can’t be used properly, it’s a defect.

If the product you bought has a defect affecting its usability and purpose, then the seller is liable and you as the buyer can claim from them. You should also take into account if the contract had a “voetstoots” clause, meaning that you are buying a product based on its appearance or “as is”. If this is the case the seller would not be held accountable for any defects with the product, latent or patent.

What can I get back from the seller?

If the product you bought has a latent defect you can get a price reduction or a refund for the price you paid. A price reduction is the difference between the price you paid and the true value of the product. A full refund includes the price you paid, interest, maintenance costs and the cost of receiving the product. A full refund would also mean that you need to return the product that you got under the contract.

If a defect has caused you harm or damaged your property, for instance, you could possibly also claim this amount as compensation from the seller.

Who is a trader and who is a seller?

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a difference between someone who is a trader and a seller. A trader is someone who makes a living from selling products, whereas a seller is an ordinary person like Mark in the example above. A trader who specialises in particular products and boasts having a specialized knowledge is held to a higher standard than an ordinary seller.

Sales talk or latent defect

It’s normal for sellers or traders to do the best to sell their product. This usually means “sales talk” or boasting about the products value and usefulness. They are allowed to do this, however, if they make statements about the product that turn out to be false, such as claiming the product can do something that it actually can’t, the law will be in your favour and protect you in the same way as a latent defect.

Before you agree to buy anything from a seller or a trader make sure you inspect the product first and make note of any defects there might be. If you neglect to inspect the product it could be more difficult for you to get compensation from the seller if there is a problem in the future.

Reference:

“What you should know about Contracts”. 2009. The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector. Department of Economic Development and Tourism. Accessed from: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/ on 13/05/2016.

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)

Managing disputes over a deceased relative’s estate

If someone leaves a sizeable estate behind, it may cause conflict among the possible heirs. The help of an attorney, when settling an estate after a death, can avoid unnecessary troubles.

The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, they might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the master of the High Court. The master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

  • Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
  • Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
  • Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what will they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice a death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the master, whether or not they died in the country.

All estates that exceed R50 000 should be reported to the master of the High Court directly because magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction. If reported to the magistrate’s office, estates would usually be referred to the master.

References:

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/services/report-estate.html/ on 11/05/2016.

Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/ on 11/05/2016.

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)