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Landlords urged to stop evicting tenants without court order

Concerns are being raised about landlords and estate agents forcibly evicting tenants from places they are renting without obtaining a court order, despite clear provisions in existing legislation that prohibit arbitrary evictions.

Property expert Johanna Shikongo, speaking at the Tenant and Land Conference in Windhoek over the weekend, said this vital legal protection is not being consistently observed in practice as numerous instances of evictions are happening without court orders.

“This is not currently practised. Evictions happen without court orders regularly,” Shikongo said.

Current legislation dictates that no one may be evicted from their home without an order of court and that no legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.

Shikongo said landlords must not resort to tactics like changing locks or doors to deny access to rental properties, unless there is a genuine need to replace them due to fair wear and tear.

“Unless it is necessary to replace the locks or doors due to fair wear and tear and not without reasonable notice or unless duplicate keys are provided to the other prior to such change of locks,” Shikongo said.

Shikongo said this situation often arises when a tenant fails to meet their rent obligations. In such cases, she said, a hypothec automatically comes into effect when the tenant falls into arrears.

“However, it’s crucial to note that the landlord cannot simply seize the tenant’s movable assets without obtaining a court order. This also applies to the sub-lessee’s movable possessions. Anything outside a court order remains illegal,” Shikongo said.

Shikongo said both landlords and tenants are facing challenges in meeting their financial obligations, particularly towards financial institutions.

She said the current economic climate characterised by job losses, high inflation, increased costs of living, rising rates and taxes, heightened body corporate levies, and expensive electrical tariffs has taken a toll on landlords’ financial stability.

“In addition to these known challenges the landlords are battling to manage the tenant and landlord relationships. Most of the time the relationship is broken to the extent that most tenants end up not meeting their monthly rentals as they retaliate against their landlord’s behaviours,” Shikongo said.

When tenants don’t pay rent, it can often lead to banks foreclosing on these properties. As a result, property owners find themselves reverting to the status of tenants again. This shift in housing status puts additional strain on the National Housing Enterprise (NHE) and the municipality, as these individuals join the housing waiting lists.

“Our thinking is that Namibia requires a disruptive approach in addressing the housing crisis as a nation and more practical efforts are urgently required,” Shikongo said.

Shikongo expressed scepticism that the proposed Namibia Rent Ordinance, which is eagerly anticipated, will be sufficient to address the current housing crisis in the country.

According to the ministry of urban and rural development, Namibia currently has a housing backlog of over 300 000 houses.

During the conference, Swakopmund municipality’s chief executive Alfeus Benjamin highlighted that the responsibility for municipal fee payments is placed on landlords and body corporates.

He urged landlords to cultivate positive relationships with their tenants to prevent water disconnections due to non-payment of municipal fees on the properties they manage.

Furthermore, property investor Archie Graham said landlords should consider including a water allowance in addition to the regular water consumption fee within the tenants’ monthly rental amount.