By Jolané van der Walt (LLB) (LLM)

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world in unprecedented ways. In addition to the effect on our health, the coronavirus is affecting every single aspect of our lives such as employment, income, food resources, sanitation and housing. 

Evictions – Lockdown Level 4 and 5

Can I get evicted for not paying rent? The government of South Africa issued very clear directives regarding evictions at the beginning of the lockdown period. It expressly directed that all evictions and executions of attachment orders, both moveable and immoveable, including the removal of moveable assets and sales in execution are suspended with immediate effect. No landlord may therefore lawfully evict a tenant from any leased premises.

Homeowners/ lessors/ landlords must take note that all major banking institutions have made provision for hardship caused by the pandemic. Landlords who have bond payments and loans to repay may therefore contact their respective banks to make payment arrangements. Almost all South African banks have relief packages in place for those affected by the pandemic.

This does not mean that tenants are exempted from paying the monthly rental amount. Tenants experiencing hardship are urged to advise their landlords immediately and to negotiate an acceptable payment arrangement. 

Evictions – Lockdown Level 3

Landlords are permitted to prepare eviction order applications, which may be granted by the court during level 4. Important to remember, however, is that the order is then suspended and cannot be executed until the last day of level 4. 

At this point we do not know whether all provinces will move to level 3 on the 1st of June 2020. Although we currently understand that evictions may possibly become lawful under level 3, the final regulations may vary considerably from the draft or anticipated rules. Therefore, unless level 3 clearly allows for evictions and lifts the formal suspension thereof, evictions shall remain unlawful.

A Landlord may not disconnect water supply 

A directive by Minister Sisulu was made to all Municipalities to suspend the cutting of water supply. Government has called on all citizens to practice diligent hygiene by continuously washing hands throughout the day to prevent the spread of the infections.

Conclusion

Tenants who can afford to make the monthly rental payment cannot and will not be excused for withholding rent. The onus to prove hardship rests on the shoulders of the tenant. It is crucial to keep in mind that every citizen is affected by the pandemic, tenants and landlords alike.

Jolané van der Walt (LLB) (LLM) from Legal Hero

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