Answer to a question from a reader

I received an RDP house in 2008 but I could not occupy due to illegal invaders. Now the municipality is claiming unpaid rates from me. What can I do?

The short answer

You need a lawyer to help resolve this situation

The whole question

I recieved a RDP house in 2008, but I did not receive my keys to the house, because there were people who already invaded my house. I have my title deed. I have been to court and the court found them guilty but said that they could not take them out of the house. I'm still waiting to hear what to do about my house. Three months ago the municipality took me to court because the rates of the house have never been paid. I was told I have to pay the rates because the house is under my name. I live in Vryheid Kwazulu Natal. What can I do?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking what you can do about the RDP house you received in 2008 but could not occupy because it had already been occupied by illegal invaders. And now the municipality says you have to pay the unpaid rates as you are the owner.

You don’t say why the court said the occupiers could not be evicted, but if you have not lived in the house since you got it in 2008, the people in it have been there for over ten years and they may well argue that it is their house, and they have nowhere else to go. It is a really difficult situation and must seem so unfair to you.

Since you went to court, you will know that the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act (PIE) lays down the steps that must be followed to evict occupiers of a property: informing them that you will be seeking a court order to evict them and informing them that they have a right to oppose it, giving them a copy of the application to court with addresses of organisations that they can request to represent them, and giving them a copy of the date of the court application at least two weeks in advance. At the hearing the court listens to everybody’s story and must take particular account of the effect of an eviction on children and elderly people. The municipality must also be there to inform the court of what emergency accommodation they can make available for the people if they are evicted. In the end the court must decide whether an eviction would be just and fair in the circumstances. We don’t know why the court decided against evicting the people, and so it’s not clear what your next steps should be.

The problem is that the law is clear that the owner of the property is responsible for taking steps to evict illegal squatters and the longer the owner fails to take steps to evict them, the more difficult and expensive the process of evicting them becomes. The law is also clear that the owner of the property is liable to pay the rates, even if you have not been able to live in the house.

Perhaps the best thing would be to take legal advice on what your options are. You should take the title deed, the court judgement/s and any other relevant documents to show the lawyer. You could consult Legal Aid which must assist you if you cannot afford legal advice.

The Legal Aid Board in Vryheid is at 199A Church Street, and their phone number is 034 989 8300.

Answered on Jan. 27, 2020, 11:20 a.m.

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