How much does it cost to evict a tenant?
Eviction is never pleasant. The word is associated with an uncaring landlord putting an unfortunate tenant out on the streets. Unfair evictions do happen. But rental housing legislation provides protection to tenants and does not allow landlords to misuse their power as property owners. The law protects tenants and property owners alike. Both parties have rights. If you own property, you are entitled to benefit from it financially without suffering abuse from tenants. If the worst happens, and you and your tenant reach an impasse, what is the cost of eviction?
When should you consult an eviction attorney?
If both parties uphold the lease agreement and fulfill their respective responsibilities, the word “eviction” is unlikely to arise. Eviction is the last resort when there is a breach of the lease agreement that has not been resolved through amicable means. A breach can happen for a number of reasons. It may be due to failure to maintain the property or adhere to the conditions of the lease, but the most common cause for eviction is rental arrears. However, a landlord cannot simply evict a tenant for a payment default. In fact, a landlord can’t evict a tenant at all. Only the courts can do that.
It may be tempting to handle an eviction yourself, but eviction is a legal process which requires an attorney. You may want to avoid eviction costs, but delay in consulting a lawyer can cost you money in the long run. As the rent arrears pile up, you are losing money that you may never recover. Engaging an expert in eviction law will save you money in the long run. It will ensure a smooth, compliant process, limit your losses and restore your property to its income-earning status as quickly as possible.
How much does an eviction cost?
The cost of an eviction is contingent on the complexity of the situation. If a tenant is obstinate and refuses to vacate the property, costs can mount. An unopposed eviction will cost R15 000+. However, if the eviction is opposed, the cost can be as much as R40 000+. The process can also take months. If your eviction attorney follows the correct process, the court will award the eviction order eventually, but you may still have a struggle to get the tenant out of the property.
The role of the Sheriff
Once the court has granted your eviction order, the process is not yet complete. If the tenants dig their heels in and refuse to move, you still have a problem. You may not legally remove them or their possessions from the property yourself. Only the Sheriff can do this by law. If you need the services of the Sheriff to forcibly effect the eviction, the cost will depend on the size of the property and the number of tenants. You can expect to pay from R1 000 to R5 000 in Sheriff’s costs.
The Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act (PIE) gives special consideration to vulnerable tenants – woman-headed households with children, the elderly and the disabled. You are not prohibited from evicting these tenants if they are in breach of the lease, but you must allow them more time to find suitable alternative accommodation. This will add to your lost earnings and increase the total eviction cost, although it won’t generate additional legal costs.
It is technically possible to reclaim eviction charges from the tenant. However, in reality you are very unlikely to succeed. If your tenant has defaulted on rent due to inability to pay, it’s possible you may not even recover the rent you are due. It is unrealistic to expect a financially stressed individual to come up with a five-figure sum in addition to unpaid rent. You could sue for it, but what would be the point?
Consult a good eviction attorney
An eviction lawyer is essential if you have a troublesome tenant who fails to rectify a breach after reasonable requests and eviction is your only recourse. You can attempt to obtain an eviction order from the court yourself, but your chances of success are slim unless you have a good grasp of rental housing law. An eviction lawyer knows the intricacies of PIE and will make sure you don’t lose your case on a technicality.
Ultimately, an eviction attorney will save you money, even allowing for their fee. If you earn R10 000 – R20 000 per month in rental income it won’t take many months of rent arrears for you to lose you far more than the cost of your eviction. Cape Town lawyers Simon Dippenaar and Associates are experts in eviction law and will make sure your property is returned to its income-earning status as soon as possible! Contact Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email email@example.com.