Prevention Of Illegal Eviction Act

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation [PIE] Act

It is understood that proposed long-delayed amendments to the PIE Act were recently approved by Cabinet and will shortly be published for general comment. The amendments seek to free private residential landlords and banks [in the case of repossessed properties] from the full rigours of the PIE Act. The original intention of the 1998 Act was both to regulate and control land invasions in urban areas and to create a judicial process pursuant to which the rights of individuals and landowners could be mediated. The ambit of the Act was, however, significantly broadened last year as the result of a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal.'

The interpretation by the Court significantly widened the net and resulted in ordinary tenants and home loan defaulters who refused to vacate residential properties being brought within the reach of the Act. Such persons became, in the words of the Act, ‘unlawful occupiers’. They henceforth enjoyed the extensive protection afforded by the Act and its enforcement mechanisms, which imposed a time-consuming and expensive process on landlords to obtain an eviction. It seems that many magistrates in the Magistrate’s Courts were disinclined to issue ejectment orders, particularly where cases were defended on the basis of the PIE Act. They invariably directed that such matters should be referred to the High Courts for adjudication thereby increasing the lessor’s ejectment costs substantially. The proposed amendment seeks to change the definition of unlawful occupier so as to exclude any person who, having initially occupied residential premises with [express or tacit] consent, thereafter continues to occupy such premises once the consent has been withdrawn.

Note: The Board, whilst fully supportive of the original intention of the PIE Act, welcomes the proposed amendment which, it believes, will restore the status quo to the rental housing market. A current shortage of rental accommodation in urban areas was, unfortunately, exacerbated by the interpretation of the Supreme Court of Appeal. Potential landlords were, as a result, extremely wary of renting out accommodation to tenants for fear that recalcitrant tenants could not be evicted at all or only evicted after the lengthy and expensive process envisaged in the PIE Act had been complied with. Even those landlords who were, perforce, prepared to rent out property sought to mitigate the possibility of loss by securing rental deposits far in excess of what otherwise would have been the case.This necessarily redounded to the prejudice of lessees. The amendment will address these very real problems.

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