VACATING PROPERTIES DURING LEVEL 4 LOCKDOWN
With the commencement of the level 4 lockdown regulations, one of the more popular questions that has been circulating is whether a tenant or new homeowner may move into their new premises during the level 4 lockdown and what are landlords rights for non-paying tenants.
There seems to be a misconception among the public that a permit may be issued by the South African Police Services (SAPS) to move into a new property for the purposes of residence. This is usually done by way of a self-made affidavit stamped and signed at your local police station. This is not the case, as SAPS does not have the designated authority to grant these permits. According to the National Disaster Act, SAPS may only issue permits for the travel between provinces for the purposes of attending a funeral.
In terms of the National Disaster Management Act, moving to a new house is strictly prohibited at this time. Unfortunately, it is unclear as to when the government will lift these restrictions and it is therefore encouraged to not move houses until more information and/or regulations are published. Use of the above-mentioned SAPS permits may lead to possible arrest or fines.
Regarding landlords, they are still permitted to issue eviction notices during level 4 lockdown, however these evictions can only be enforced at the end of the level 4 lockdown. Landlords will not be able to rely on current common law practises to evict or obtain money for rental payments where payments cannot be made due to COVID-19. Landlords can approach the court for an immediate eviction; however, this is more likely when there is an illegal occupation of land and this would only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The court in this regard has a wide discretion in determining when an eviction will take place in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE). Landlords are advised to conclude a very detailed agreement with their tenants to accommodate periods of non-payment. Examples of these are, reductions of rent or acknowledgements to pay at a later date.