June 14, 2017

Landmark eviction ruling

8 June 2017 will long be remembered in South African legal history. Last week, the Constitutional Court handed down a landmark judgement which will empower poor and impoverished people and assist them in realising the socio-economic rights which have been promised by the government, with very little delivery.

The Court set aside the eviction of 184 residents of a block of flats in Johannesburg’s inner city. The owner of the flats claimed that all the residents had consented to the eviction. However, the residents were not fully informed of their rights nor of the processes available to them to fight the eviction or find alternative accommodation. As a result, their eviction would lead to the vast majority of them being homeless and forced to live on the streets. The residents were at such a disadvantage by not knowing their rights that only four of them attempted to fight the eviction, without having legal representation. Clearly, under these circumstances such an eviction would be unconscionable.

The Constitutional Court held that evictions that lead to homelessness are unlawful, even if such evictions are agreed to by all resident of the affected building. Further, it is now a requirement that all those who stand to be evicted must be informed of all their rights in relation to the eviction and the process available to them and what they must do in order to claim alternative accommodation. Judges are also mandated to investigate what impact eviction will have on each and every individual.

The result of the above order is that all evictions are unlawful until such a time as it can be proved that those under the threat of eviction are aware of all their rights and the remedies available to them, as well as a judge being certain that granting such an order will not result in any of the resident having to live on the streets.

Author: James Bush

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