What to expect in court

Sections in this chapter:

Introduction

An eviction hearing is where the arguments between Landlords (called the applicant) and Tenants (called the respondents) are heard by a judge or magistrate.‌

Important things to note:

What if it's my first time at court and I don't have a lawyer?

If you are going to court for the first time and do not have a lawyer, do these two things:

Oppose your eviction

Once your case is called and you are asked to approach the witness stand, you must state that you want to oppose your eviction.

Request a postponement

Request a postponement from the judge in order for you to find legal representation for yourself. At your first appearance, the judge should always grant a postponement.

Your second or third appearance in court without a lawyer

Any further postponements to your case will require evidence of an effort on your part to find legal representation.

Show evidence of your attempts to find a lawyer

Present any communication from legal aid clinics that prove you have made an effort to find representation.

Learn how evictions are executed

Do not feel intimidated

Do not feel rushed into representing yourself! As long as you have proof that no pro bono (free) lawyer is available to take your case, you should be granted an extension.

How to find legal representation

Argument in court

After opposing your eviction and finding a lawyer (or choosing to represent yourself), both sides will present their arguments.

Presenting your case

Remember, you can only argue what has been written in your affidavits. No new evidence, information, or arguments can be brought before the court unless there has been a 'relevant and material' change to the circumstances of the parties.

Ensure the affidavits contain all relevant information

It is vital that you have submitted documents to the court that backup your case. You cannot decide to provide alternative information in court if it is not present in your affidavit.

Settlement agreements

At any stage before the court has ruled, you can come to an agreement with your landlord and settle the matter.

Consider offers VERY carefully

Often your landlord will make a settlement offer. Sometimes it is fair, sometimes it may not be. Remember, you do not have to accept this offer. Always consult with a lawyer!

Avoid rushed agreements

Offers may be presented at short notice before going to court. Do not feel rushed! Tell your landlord you would like to take your time to consider the offer and seek advice. If your landlord or their lawyer won't give you at least 24 hours to consider a settlement agreement, then they are probably trying to rush you into signing something that is unfair.

The court order

A court order is the official ruling from the court stating whether you are evicted or not. If you are evicted, the order will state by when you have to leave the property.
Learn more about court orders

Date of eviction

The order by the judge will clearly state by when you will need to leave the property. Even if you are evicted, this date will usually take into account your circumstances and allow sufficient time for alternative arrangements to be made. If this date gives you less than a month to vacate, you should consider making an appeal.

Date of removal (also known as the date of execution)

There will also be a date specified by which, if you have not left the property, the Sheriff will be allowed to physically remove you. This is called the “execution date”, and it is usually a few days after the eviction date

Take Action

Locate the right court and courtroom

Make sure you know where the court is. You must be at the court before 9am on the day of your hearing. You can even go to court before your court date, just to get familiar with the court and how long it will take you to get there.

Contact Reclaim the City for support

If you are in the Cape Town or Wynberg Magistrates’ Courts, Reclaim the City are happy to come with you to show you around. They can help you find the right courtroom and what to expect when you have your first appearance in court.

Reclaim the City contact information

Oppose your eviction

You must oppose your eviction if you feel your landlord does not have grounds to evict you or you need more time to find somewhere else to live. When your case is called, tell the court you are opposing your eviction.

More about opposing your eviction

Ask for a postponement to find legal representation

Once you have told the court you are opposing your eviction, ask for a postponement to find legal representation. At this point it will help to show proof of any attempts you have made to find legal representation.

More about finding legal representation

Do not sign or settle at court

Your landlord or their lawyers may present you with a settlement offer before your court appearance. DO NOT RUSH INTO ACCEPTING ANY OFFERS. Take your time and seek advice from a lawyer or housing activists like Reclaim the City. Make sure you fully understand the offer before you sign anything. Do not feel pressured!

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Proceed to the next chapter
Responding to a court order