Summary of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and the Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, no. 19 of 1998


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The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act protects South Africans from being unlawfully evicted from the land or property they live on. It sets out the procedure for the eviction of unlawful occupiers of land and states that no person may be arbitrarily evicted from their home. According to the Act, the circumstances of the person being evicted must be taken into account and the law should be carried out in a fair manner. The Act also puts a duty on the court to give special consideration to the rights of the elderly, disabled persons and particularly households headed by women.


[edit] When Is a Person Occupying Land Unlawfully?

According to the Act, an unlawful occupier is a person who occupies land without the express or tacit consent of the owner, or without any other right in law to live on the land. This excludes people occupying land in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, 1997, and a person whose rights are protected by the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, 1996.

In addition to this, no person is allowed to receive money or other forms of payment for the occupation of land that does not belong to them. Any person who breaks this law is liable for a fine or imprisonment of up to two years. They will also have to repay the money.

[edit] When Is It Legal to Evict a Person?

A landowner who wants to evict an illegal occupier must serve written notice of the eviction to both the municipality and the person who is to be evicted. The notice must be served at least 14 days before the date set for the eviction proceedings.

There are two categories of unlawful occupiers of land and the court treats them differently.
  1. People who have occupied land for less than six months: People who fall into this category have less protection, and the court may simply grant an order for eviction if it seems fair. The court will, however, give special consideration to vulnerable groups (i.e. the elderly, children, disabled persons and households that are headed by women).
  2. People who have occupied land for six months: In these cases, the court will consider whether land has been made available to the person by a municipality or other organ of state before granting the eviction order.

If the court finds that there is no valid defence, it will order the eviction of the unlawful occupier and will set a fair date by which the person must leave the land and a fair date upon which the eviction order may be carried out if the person does not leave.

[edit] When can a person get an urgent eviction order?

A landowner can apply for an urgent eviction order in the following cases:

  • if there is danger of injury of damage to any person or property if the unlawful occupier is not quickly evicted;
  • if the hardship suffered by the owner is likely to outweigh the hardship suffered by the unlawful occupier if the order is not granted; and
  • if there is no other remedy available.

Written notice of the eviction must still be issued to the unlawful occupier and the relevant municipality.

[edit] When Is the State Allowed to Evict a Person?

An organ of State may institute proceedings for eviction in the following cases:

  • if a person is erecting a building or structure on land that falls within its area of jurisdiction without the State’s consent;
  • if a person is occupying a building or structure on land that falls within its area of jurisdiction without the State’s consent;
  • if it is in the public interest to evict the person (i.e. it is in the interest of health and safety).
Nobody may evict a person without a competent court order.

The municipality may also appoint one or more persons to seek a mediated solution to the problem. Any party to the dispute may ask the municipality to appoint a person with expertise in dispute resolution to help resolve the problem.

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