Answer to a question from a reader

My family home has become a drug house. How can I evict my relatives?

The short answer

You need to follow the appropriate protocol to get an eviction order from the court, even though it may not be put into effect until the pandemic is over

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I have inherited a house from my late father, who inherited it from his parents. It is considered a family house as his brother still lives there. Unfortunately, the house is in a state of disrepair and my uncle has not paid for any municipal services.

At the beginning of last year's lockdown, two relatives (siblings) moved in with him. They are both heavy drug users and the house is now being used for all sorts of illegal activities. I was informed by the local police that I cannot evict my relatives due to lockdown restrictions even though their parents and grandparents have properties as well.

The house has become a major sore point in the community and all referrals are made to me as one of the caretakers/overseers. I desperately need some assistance because I am not in a position to afford legal fees.

The long answer

It’s true that they cannot be evicted under lockdown restrictions unless a court explicitly says they can be. No one can be evicted in South Africa without a court order even when there are no lockdown restrictions. 

You can, however, apply for a court order to evict them even if the order cannot be carried out presently. The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Prevention of Illegal Occupation of Land Act (PIE) of 1998 applies: if you want to evict someone, you must first notify them of your intention to get a court order to evict them. Then, when you have applied to court and have got a date for the court hearing, you must give them a copy of the notice from the court. They are entitled to be there and give their side of the story. The court must take into consideration the effect of eviction on vulnerable people like the elderly, women and children. The municipality should also be in court to indicate what emergency housing, if any, they can offer the people evicted.

If the court does grant an eviction order, and the people do not move out by the date given by the court, the eviction can only be carried out by the sheriff of the court. Under the present lockdown restrictions, the court order, if granted, must be held over till the end of the lockdown; it can be only be carried out presently if the court explicitly agrees that this is in order.

You might want to consult Legal Aid, which is a means-tested government organisation, that must assist people who cannot afford a lawyer. These are their contact details:

Legal Aid Advice Line (Toll-free): 0800 110 110

Legal Aid Ethics Hotline: 0800 153 728

Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

Wishing you the best,

Answered on April 8, 2021, 3:15 p.m.

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