The Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) has ruled that student accommodation providers can legally evict students from university housing at the end of their studies as it isn’t a permanent residence and they can return home – but while the ruling is welcome for student accommodation providers, it won’t change much for most landlords and tenants.
The SCA ruled in favour of Stay at South Point Properties, an official accommodation provider at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, which sought to remove 90 overstaying students from one of its properties.
Stay at South Point’s original application to the Western Cape High Court for an eviction notice was refused as it hadn’t been brought under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE).
But the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that PIE didn’t apply as student accommodation isn’t intended to be a permanent residence and the students could return to the homes they came from.
Student accommodation providers will be relieved. The ruling strengthens their rights over their properties – and, as the judges argued, the rights of incoming students who can now get accommodation more easily.
But it also highlights some of the other risks involved in renting to students, and the difficulty of recovering properties when tenants refuse to move out. The group involved completed their education in 2020, and the original eviction notice was applied for – and denied – in 2021. But for these types of landlords – and others (see below) – there is an outcome.
For non-student tenancies, evictions can be even more difficult to secure. PIE provides tenants with a high level of protection from eviction. Courts will consider whether the tenant can secure alternative accommodation, as well as the rights of children, elderly or disabled people, and households headed by women. This can make it difficult and expensive to evict tenants, especially if municipalities do not provide alternative housing when ordered by the court to do so.
Ultimately, prevention is better than cure. The best defence against the cost and uncertainty of eviction is not to have to evict. Rigorous tenant screening can help rental agents and landlords place reliable, paying tenants. Data-driven screening methods like PayProp’s Tenant Assessment Report, which combines credit scoring with a tenant’s payment history from previous PayProp-powered tenancies, give rental agents the clearest picture of tenant risk.
Rental agents can also require tenants to sign surety agreements, so that a guarantor is liable for rent if the tenant can’t or won’t pay. This is especially useful in student rentals, where the student’s parents are likely to be financing their rent anyway, but can also be a good option for other types of property.