All too often, tenants are at the mercy of landlords. In Zimbabwe there are many issues and these include the landlord making a unilateral overnight increase in rent, cutting off the tenants water or electricity, taking the tenants property to recover debts and physical or verbal harassment. And where the tenant retaliates the landlord might order that tenant to leave their premises. Unfortunately, rent property is in short supply so many tenants might actually put up with the abuse. But this is not necessary because the letter of law actually works in favor of tenants. In this article we will explore what the law says about eviction and how tenants can protect themselves.
There are three reasons which are acceptable under law for the eviction of a tenant. The first is where the tenant fails to pay rent which is a serious offence because it goes to the root of the lease agreement. The second is where the landlord wants to use the premises for his own use – but this must be proven and not merely stated. The last is where the landlord wants to refurbish the premises.
In some cases, landlords think it is acceptable to evict a tenant where they fail to accept higher rentals. This is actually not true. To successfully lodge an eviction on this matter it should pass through the Rent Board.
An eviction does not happen instantaneously. The law provides that the tenant should be given reasonable notice of at least two months. To be safe it might be wise to make it three months. In cases where the tenant is failing to pay rent then a two month notice may be reduced but this must be approved by the Rent Board.
If at the end of the notice period the tenant does not leave then the matter should be referred to the Rent Board. A hearing date will be fixed where both parties will have equal opportunity to state their case. This is where being a responsible landlord or tenant becomes handy. If you have done well in keeping records of all your payments and receipts and other relevant evidence then you greatly improve your argument in a Rent Board hearing.
Where the landlord is successful with his/her case in evicting the tenant then he/she will be issued a Certificate of Ejectment. This is however not enough to evict the tenant as the landlord must then enter the courts for an Eviction Order. Unfortunately the landlord cannot just approach the courts for an Eviction Order because without the Certificate of Ejectment it will be null and void. Considering the length of the procedure of evicting a tenant it will be in the best interests of the landlord to approach the Rent Board as soon as possible instead of waiting 2 months.
Using the information we have presented in this article the tenants should be in a position to protect themselves. Even if the steps involved are not easy to follow tenants should approach the Rent Board for advice. Confronting the landlord is not a good idea not matter how wrong they may be. Confrontations usually have a way of escalating to something worse. Tenants should expect the landlord to reasonably follow the letter of the law in an eviction and should the tenant know they are at fault they should take advantage of the 2 to 3 months period to find alternative accommodation. In no way should tenants find themselves in a desperate situation to find a home unless of course they have done little in the way of finding accommodation during their grace period.