Answer to a question from a reader

Can my stepmother evict me without a court order?

The short answer

Locking you out and throwing out your property is certainly against the law. No one is allowed to take the law into their own hands like that.

The whole question

I live in my father's house. His wife is my stepmother.

This morning I woke up and some of my property was left outside, the doors were locked and I could not get in the house. What would be the best route for me to take?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking for advice after being illegally evicted by your stepmother.

Locking you out and throwing out your property is certainly against the law. No one is allowed to take the law into their own hands like that. The law that applies is known as PIE, which is short for the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation Act of 1998.

In South Africa you cannot be evicted without an eviction order, which usually takes about three months to obtain.

What you can do immediately is to approach Legal Aid and ask them for assistance. They can apply for what is called a spoliation order, which means that the magistrate can order that your stepmother’s action be reversed so that you are allowed back into the house immediately. She could be given a fine and also be required to bear the court costs, if any.

If you have a formal lease, your stepmother could simply inform you that she will not be renewing the lease when it expires. As a family member, though, you probably do not have a formal lease, but if you contributed to household expenses or utility bills, this would be regarded as payment of rent in a verbal or tacit lease.

If your stepmother wants you to move out, her first step should be to inform you and try to reach an agreement about a reasonable notice period. If no agreement is reached, she would need to inform you that she would be seeking an eviction order from the courts. She would need to give you all the court documents, her reason for evicting you and why she has the right to do so, so that you have the opportunity to respond and oppose it.

She would also need to apply to the courts to have a written notice served on you stating her intention to evict you. This 4(2) notice would need to be served on you at least 14 days before the court hearing, and a copy would also need to be served on the municipality in your area, so that they too could be present in court on the day of the hearing. (The municipality must be there to say what emergency accommodation they could provide if you are left homeless after the eviction.) The notice must state the place, date and time of the court hearing and that you have the right to oppose the eviction, and the names of organisations that can offer legal assistance.

On the day of the court hearing, you have the right to present your side of the story. The judge will take into account how long you have lived in the house and your personal circumstances, and after weighing up all the evidence, the judge will decide whether it is fair and reasonable to grant an eviction order.

If an eviction order is granted, you must be given reasonable time to move out or move to emergency accommodation. The eviction order must state the date that you must be out of the house and also the date of eviction if you do not move out at the prescribed time. The sheriff of the court must explain the eviction order to you, and you can only be evicted by the sheriff.

You can contact Legal Aid at these numbers:

Johannesburg: 011 877 2000

Cape Town: 021 426 4126



Answered on May 3, 2019, 1:22 p.m.

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