I have been hearing a lot from landlords about their frustrations with PIE – to be specific, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act of 1998. PIE is a real thorn in the side of landlords when it comes to aberrant tenants breaching the conditions of their lease.
It’s important that tenants are protected under the law as, throughout history, tenants worldwide have been subject to sometimes shoddy and unpredictable treatment at the hands of their landlords. Equally, for landlords their properties represent a huge investment so they equally deserve protection against any tenants that breach the terms of their agreement.
Under the current legislation it is very difficult to summarily evict a tenant who is not complying with the conditions of their lease, for instance in the case of non-payment of rent. The PIE Act sets out quite a lengthy process to be followed in the event of any breach and it ultimately involves getting a court order. Starting from scratch it could take a landlord up to six months to successfully and legitimately remove a defaulting tenant from their property.
I read a letter to the editor in a recent edition of Noseweek in which a property owner was complaining about the procedures involved and the length of time required to remove an aberrant tenant. The writer of the letter expressed the opinion that the status quo could kill the “buy-to-let market” which, in turn, could result in a shortage of properties to rent. In my opinion, this is a very realistic assessment.
The law certainly does not seem to be playing fair with landlords in such instances… however, the secret of the law lies partly in how it is interpreted, and partly in how it is applied. Specifically, what matters is not so much the letter of the law, but rather the “letters” that you sign your name against in the contract. In other words, how a contract is worded.
In order to protect my clients (and to safeguard them against lengthy litigation and lost revenue), I have drafted a special clause that I include in all leases that I prepare.
This magic clause has been carefully worded in order to ensure that landlords can more than halve the time it would otherwise take them to lawfully evict a tenant by deeming the occupation unlawful in terms of PIE, once the tenant has been placed in breach.
I find this to be a very useful weapon to include in a lease as it carries immense weight and power. It can also help to rectify a problematic situation speedily once the tenant is made aware of the existence of this clause.
So all is not lost… but, as in all lease agreement, let the tenant beware and the landlord take care.