Answer to a question from a reader

Should my parents pay the municipality for an RDP house they gave to my uncle?

The short answer

It depends on the arrangement between your parents and your uncle.

The whole question

My parents gave my uncle a place to stay because we, as a family, no longer lived there. He had an RDP house built on the property. Some years went by and my mother received a call from the municipality saying that they owed a certain amount of money for the place. Should my parents pay that amount or should my uncle and his family be paying it? My sister and I are sure we are the beneficiaries of the place and would like to move in. Is it even legal for the municipality to call the original owners and expect them to pay for a place they haven't been living in, or should that place be for free? 

The long answer

You are quite right that there is no money charged for an RDP house: The money that the municipality says is owed must be for municipal services like water, electricity and rubbish collection. If the house is still in the name of your parents, they as the legal owners are responsible for paying the money owed for these services.

You would need to discuss with your parents what the arrangement was with your uncle. Perhaps they could arrange a family meeting with your uncle about paying the money owed for services.

If your parents want your uncle and family to move out, they would need to give them notice. If they refused to move out, your parents would have to go to court for an eviction order, in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Property Act (the ‘PIE’ Act). This is because the Constitution says that nobody can be evicted without a court order.

Under Level 3 of the Disaster Management Act, your parents can apply for an eviction order and it may be granted, but the actual eviction cannot be carried out until the last day of Level 3.

So your parents would have to inform your uncle that they were applying for a court order, and give him written notice of the court hearing. Your uncle has the right to appear in court on that day as well as your parents, and the court would hear his side of the story as well as your parents’ side.

The court has to take into account how long they have been staying there, if there are elderly people and children among them and how they would be affected by an eviction order, and if it is fair and just to grant an eviction order. The municipality also has to attend the court hearing to say whether they can provide emergency housing if the eviction order is granted.

If the court grants an eviction order, your uncle and family must be given a reasonable time to move out. If they have not moved out by the court date, they can only be evicted by the sheriff of the court.

You should check whether your parents have got the title deeds to the property and if they have named you and your sister as beneficiaries in their will/s. If they do not have a will, you should assist them to make a will so that there is no confusion about who inherits the house when they pass away.

Answered on June 24, 2020, 10:12 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.