eviction - meaning of 'unlawful occupier' - PIE Act - Johannesburg

SERI represents a community of 97 adults and 39 children who reside in a series of disused hostels at Coronationville High School. The property is owned by the state and is controlled and administered by the Gauteng MEC for Housing and the School Governing Body (SGB). In 2010, the MEC for Education and the SGB applied to evict the residents from the property, arguing that the residents first occupied the property between 1999 and 2001 without consent.

The residents argue that they were invited to live on the property after the school’s hostels fell into disuse in 1998, as a way to bring in revenue for the school and keep it secure out of school hours. Each of the residents resides at the property in terms of an oral lease agreement and pay rent in the sum of R300 per month. This rent is accepted by the school and there is proof of deposit slips confirming these payments. The school's principal suggests that the leases relied upon by the residents are not valid because they are not written down. However, a tacit or oral lease is still binding and need only be reduced to writing if this is demanded by the tenant.

The residents are opposing the eviction, arguing that their occupation of the property was, at the very least, consented to for a lengthy period of time; that this consent was never terminated; and that they would be rendered homeless if they were evicted. There are 7 children attending the school and 3 of the school’s employees are amongst the residents. They argue that the basic requirement of the PIE Act has not been met and the residents are simply not unlawful occupiers. Even if they were, their eviction would not be just and equitable in terms of the Act, because neither the MEC nor the City of Johannesburg has made any alternative accommodation available to them.

The matter referred to court in 2014 and will be heard on 10 October 2014.

  • Heads of argument (2 October 2013) here and practice note (9 October 2013) here.