You may find yourself in a situation where you have received an eviction order from the court and the date on the order for your eviction is tomorrow (or very soon), but you are still living in the property in question. Many people for a number of reasons don’t do anything to prepare for an eviction thinking that if hey simply refuse to move then they cannot be evicted.
As awful as being displaced from your home is, if you have received a court-ordered eviction and have not made an official appeal through a lawyer then there isn’t much you can do to stop your eviction. The Sheriff is legally allowed, and in fact obligated, to remove you from your home and the police can help them physically remove you and all your belongings. People who do not prepare for their eviction can often find themselves and their belongings out on the street.
If your eviction date is very soon or has passed then you need to do the following:
1. Phone the Sheriff to check if they have a warrant of ejectment yet (if it’s after the eviction date)
The Sheriff cannot remove you from your home without a warrant of ejectment. They have to go to court to obtain this warrant. If your eviction date has passed and you are still in the property, you can phone the Sheriff and ask if they have the warrant of ejectment yet. You can also ask the Sheriff what day they are likely to come and evict you. The more you know the better prepared you can be. If anyone comes without a warrant of ejectment you cannot be forced to move. If someone without a warrant tries to forcefully remove you, you must call the police.
2. Store your belongings
Pack your most important things into a bag that you can carry. This should include things like ID Books, passports, money, some clothing, and any other important documents or items that you will struggle to replace. You then need to find a place for your other stuff, such as furniture and household items. Friends and family are the first people to ask, but if this is not a possibility then you may need to pay for storage. If you wait for the Sheriff to evict you, they can take your stuff and store it, but you will be forced to pay a fee for the storage, otherwise, they will put your stuff outside on the pavement.
Learn more about how the Sheriff executes an eviction here.
3. Look for alternative accommodation
This is often easier said than done. Again, friends and family are a good place to start. You can ask them if you can stay for a short time while you find a long term solution. If friends and family are not an option then your only other option is to either pay to stay in a short term rental place like a hotel or in someone’s home or stay in a shelter. Unfortunately, when you don’t have a lot of time your options are very limited. You should look at this accommodation as temporary and when you do find a short term place to stay you need to keep looking for longer-term options immediately.
According to the law, your local municipality has to provide you with alternative accommodation if being evicted will make you homeless. Go to your local housing office and tell them that you have no other options and that you need emergency housing.
See a list of shelters in the Western Cape here.
See a list of Cape Town housing offices here.
Speak to a lawyer about an appeal
If you feel that your eviction was unlawful you should go speak to a lawyer and get their legal opinion on making an appeal. Legal Aid and other law clinics are only likely to take your case if they think there is a good chance that you were unlawfully evicted. If you weren’t paying rent, and there wasn’t a very good legal reason for this, then it is unlikely they will help you make an appeal.
To learn more about tenants rights and opposing an eviction visit the new Eviction Website Blog.