In the midst of the national state of disaster, many South Africans have faced immense financial difficulties. Residential leases were subject to a lot of strain and landlords and tenants have suffered hardships which led to unlawful evictions, termination of utilities and the demolishing of dwellings.
The latest Lockdown Regulations have now been amended in an attempt to bring some relief to tenants who have not been able to make payment of their rent during the lockdown, as well as to landlords who have equally been impacted due to the non-payment of rental.
Evictions during the national state of disaster
The Lockdown Regulations state that no-one may be evicted from their land or home, or have their place of residence demolished during the national state of disaster, unless a court order has been obtained first. A court may suspend an order for eviction or demolition until the national state of disaster has come to an end, unless the court is of the opinion that it is not just or equitable to do so.
There are various factors the courts will take into account when deciding whether to grant an eviction order or not. For example, the court may consider if the reason for the eviction was based on the tenant’s lack of payment due to the national lockdown. The court may also consider whether the landlord took reasonable steps to try and negotiate alternative payment arrangements.
Complaints to the Rental Housing Tribunal
The Lockdown Regulations also provide that the Rental Housing Tribunal must put fair procedures in place for the urgent hearing of disputes.
During the national state of disaster, landlords must give defaulting tenants sufficient notice and allow them to explain their financial position. It is considered as an unfair practice if landlords impose a penalty for late payment due to the national lockdown. These are some lockdown related disputes that a tenant can refer to the Rental Housing Tribunal.
The Regulations provide some relief for tenants who have had their utilities disrupted during the national lockdown. Tenants may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal for a spoliation order, which will prevent a landlord from depriving them of occupation and/or utilities, such as water and electricity, because of failure to pay their rent. An affected party may, on 24 hours' notice, require that a hearing be arranged for such a spoliation order.
Amongst all the tragedy and turmoil the Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon South Africa, South Africans are encouraged to show the spirit of Ubuntu and the Regulations aim to bring about fairness and assistance to everyone.
Date Updated: 30 September 2020