Answer to a question from a reader

What are the rights of tenants in a boarding house where the late landlady had life rights?

The short answer

After the death of the landlady, ownership reverts to the original owners but the PIE Act still applies.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

Our landlady, Mrs W, passed away last month. She got life rights to the property in KwaZulu-Natal because she nursed the owner until they passed away. The owner's children have been trying to evict Mrs W for years. They are extremely wealthy and have powerful lawyers, whereas Mrs W ran a boarding house to support herself. 

My friends and I are the only of Mrs W's tenants who have stayed since her death. To our understanding, it will take a few months for the estate to be wound up and we are worried that we will be left homeless. What rights do we have in this situation?

The long answer

Life rights are terminated by the death of the person – Mrs W – and the property reverts to the original owners. In this case, the children of the late employer. 

However, under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) of 1998, they cannot evict you without a court order.

And, even with a court order, the eviction cannot be carried out until the lockdown ends unless a court finds implementing the eviction immediately to be just and equitable. This is unlikely to be the case with you. Usually, a court will only find that immediate implementation of an eviction order is just and equitable if the tenants are harming the property. 

The children of the late employer must give you written notice of their intention to evict you and the date of the court hearing. You must go to court on that day and tell the court your story. The municipality is also required to be in court on that day to say whether they can make alternative accommodation available should the eviction order be granted. The court must take into account how the eviction will affect the tenants, including the elderly, women and children. The Constitutional Court has said that the PIE Act "expressly requires the court to infuse elements of grace and compassion into the formal structures of the law." 

If the eviction order is granted, it cannot be put into effect until the lockdown is over. 

You could ask advice from an organisation like Lawyers for Human Rights. These are their contact details in Durban:

  • Email:

  • Tel: 031 301 0531

  • Address: Room S104, Diakonia Centre, 20th Diakonia Avenue (formerly St. Andrews Street), Durban

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Sept. 15, 2021, 5 p.m.

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