An eviction notice is not the final step in the eviction process, because the matter has to be taken to court, where the tenant can contest the eviction. As such, eviction can in fact be stopped, but it depends on the particulars of the situation.
The law does not permit arbitrary evictions. Section 26 of the Constitution says that no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the circumstances. A court must consider how the eviction will affect the people who will be evicted, and evictions cannot be done without valid reason.
Eviction notices are not final, as the tenant and landlord have to go to court if the tenant does not accept the eviction. Before court, the landlord must instruct the Sheriff to serve the relevant papers (of the PIE Act) to the defendant, all other occupiers, and the municipality. At least two weeks’ notice of the proceedings must be given to the relevant parties.
- There must be discussions between the landowner, the unlawful occupier(s), and the municipality, to assess how the owner’s interests can be met without an eviction, and whether the municipality has alternative accommodation to which the unlawful occupier(s) can move.
- If the landowner still reaches the decision to evict the tenant, then he/she must approach a court of law.
- Those who are being evicted must receive all the court documents that the landowner submitted to court. These documents will contain the personal details of the owner, the reasons why the owner wants to evict, and why the owner believes he/she has a right to evict.
- The occupiers must be given a chance to respond to the court documents and to oppose the eviction.
- A Section 4(2) notice must be given to the occupiers. This is a written notice of the eviction over and above the initial court papers which were given to the occupiers. This notice must contain the place, date, and time of the court hearing, and the reasons for the eviction, and must inform the occupiers that they have a right to appear in court to oppose the eviction. Above all, the notice must contain a list of organisations that can offer legal assistance to occupiers.
- The matter must be heard in a court of law where all the parties present their side of the story. If the occupiers have not received legal assistance, the judge will postpone the matter for another date. If the occupiers will be homeless after the eviction and the owner has not provided the municipality with all the court appears, the judge will postpone the matter until the municipality has been given the court papers and is present in court.
Therefore, based on the circumstances of the particular case, it is possible for an eviction to be stopped.