A short guide to PIE and its provisions
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, No 19 of 1998 (PIE Act) protects the rights of occupiers and landowners alike. It sets out procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers from residential properties, while prohibiting illegal evictions. PIE excludes people occupying land who fall under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, 1997 (ESTA).
PIE stems from Section 26(3) of the Constitution which states that “no one may be evicted from their home or have their home demolished without an order of court made after consideration of all the relevant circumstances”. Special consideration is given to the rights of the elderly, of children, of disabled persons, and of women-headed households, as well as the availability of land for relocation.
Although PIE does not take away a landowner’s proprietary rights, it does delay the exercise of these rights until the court has decided whether an eviction is just and equitable, after taking all relevant circumstances into account. Bear in mind, however, that evictions do not always emanate from unlawful occupation. Many PIE evictions involve tenancy disputes and holding-over situations, where the landlord allows the tenant to occupy the premises even though the term of the original lease has come to an end.
Defining an unlawful occupier
An unlawful occupier is defined as someone who occupies land without the express or tacit permission of the owner or the person in charge. This includes tenants who fail to pay their rent or bond. Tacit permission refers to a situation where the owner is aware that the occupant is on the land or premises but does nothing to stop it.
This raises the question: are "unlawful occupiers" only those who unlawfully take possession of land (squatters) or does the term include people who once had lawful possession that later became unlawful?
A good example is the Ndlovu case, in which the tenant’s lease was terminated lawfully but he refused to vacate the property. The court ruled that an "unlawful occupier" included people who initially had lawful occupation but whose occupation subsequently became unlawful. Since the consent of the owner had lapsed, Nldovu was now deemed an unlawful occupier.
The landowner must give the occupier notice of the intention to obtain an eviction order at court.
The landowner must apply to the court to serve written notice on the occupier to this effect.
The landowner must prove that he or she is the owner of the property (rei vindicatio) by producing title deeds for the property, and must show that the defendant is occupying the property.
At least 14 days before the hearing the court must serve notice on the occupier and the municipality that has jurisdiction in the area.
The notice must:
Contain a statement that says proceedings are being instituted in court in terms of PIE.
Include the date and time of the hearing.
State the grounds for the proposed eviction.
State that the occupier is entitled to defend him/herself in court if he/she believes the proposed eviction is unfair.
Explain that an occupier can apply for legal aid.
If the court then grants an eviction order, the occupier will be given a date by which to vacate the land, failing which the sheriff of the court will implement the eviction.
Cape Town Attorneys SD Law & Associates are specialists in property law. We act for both landlords and tenants, know the ins and outs of PIE and can advise you on the best approach to any property matter, including the cost of effecting an eviction. Call Simon on 086 099 5146 or email email@example.com
For more about when a landlord can cancel a lease click here.
For more about the landlord’s tacit hypothec click here.