Help, my eviction date is tomorrow and I don’t know what to do!

If you don’t prepare, you might find yourself and your belongings on the street

Photo of High Court

If you have received an eviction order from the court and have not lodged an appeal, there isn’t much you can do to stop your eviction. But you can prepare. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

By Shaun Russell

6 December 2019

Many people don’t do anything to prepare for an eviction, thinking that if they simply refuse to move, they cannot be evicted.

But if you have received an eviction order from the court and have not made an official appeal through a lawyer, then there isn’t much you can do to stop your eviction. The Sheriff of the court is legally allowed, and in fact obliged, to remove you from your home and the police can help the Sheriff physically remove you and all your belongings. People who do not prepare for their eviction can often find themselves and their belongings out on the street.

If your eviction date is very soon or has passed then you need to do the following:

Phone the Sheriff

If your eviction date has passed, phone the Sheriff to see if there is a warrant of ejectment yet. The Sheriff cannot remove you from your home without a warrant of ejectment. The Sheriff must go to court to obtain this warrant. If your eviction date has passed and you are still in the property, you can phone the Sheriff’s office and ask if they have the warrant of ejectment yet. You can also ask the Sheriff what day they are likely to come and evict you. The more you know, the better prepared you can be. If anyone comes without a warrant of ejectment. you cannot be forced to move. If someone without a warrant tries to forcefully remove you, you must call the police.

Store your belongings

Pack the most important things into a bag that you can carry. This includes things like ID books, passports, money, some clothing, and any other important documents or items that you will struggle to replace. Then you need to find a place for your other belongings, such as furniture and household items. Friends and family are the first people to ask, but if this is not possible, then you may need to pay for storage. The Sheriff’s office can take your stuff and store it, but you will be forced to pay a fee for the storage, otherwise your stuff will be put outside on the pavement.

Learn more about how the Sheriff executes an eviction here.

Look for alternative accommodation

This is often easier said than done. Again, friends and family are a good place to start. If this is not an option, then you will have to pay to stay in a short term rental place like a hotel or in someone’s home, or go to a shelter. Unfortunately, when you don’t have a lot of time, your options are very limited. You should look at this accommodation as temporary and when you do find a short term place to stay, you need to keep looking for longer-term options immediately.

According to the law, your local municipality has to provide you with alternative accommodation if being evicted will make you homeless. Go to your local housing office and tell them that you have no other options and that you need emergency housing.

See a list of shelters in the Western Cape here. See a list of Cape Town housing offices here.

Speak to a lawyer about an appeal

If you feel that your eviction was unlawful, you should speak to a lawyer to get an opinion on making an appeal. Legal Aid and other law clinics are only likely to take your case if they think there is a good chance that you were unlawfully evicted. If you weren’t paying rent, and there wasn’t a very good legal reason for this, then it is unlikely they will help you make an appeal.

Learn more about appeals here and learn more about finding legal advice here. To learn more about tenants rights and opposing an eviction visit the new Eviction Website Blog.

The author is the Evictions Project Manager for OpenUp. This information sheet is produced by OpenUp and first published on GroundUp. This is the third in a series. Read the second one here.