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Compiled by Devina Haripersad


Court rules in favour of student eviction from university residence

The court's decision emphasised that student housing is intended to only be temporary.


In a significant ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) confirmed that students can be evicted from university-provided accommodation if they refuse to vacate while having alternative homes available.

The court’s decision emphasised that student housing is intended to be temporary, providing support for education while ensuring incoming students can benefit from the available accommodations.

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The case stemmed from an application for leave to appeal a Western Cape High Court ruling that favoured 90 students opposing their evictions from New Market Junction, owned by Stay at South Point properties.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town had contracted Stay at South Point Properties to provide accommodation for these students.

But according to reports, despite receiving notices to leave after completing their exams in late 2020, the students refused to vacate the premises during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Request to relocate

While eleven students were initially permitted to remain in their accommodation for the 2021 academic year, they were later asked to relocate to alternative housing provided by the property company for maintenance and cleaning at the main site. This group also refused to comply with the request.

On 12 January 2021, the property company deployed security guards to remove the occupants. However, their resistance led the property company to seek an eviction order from the Western Cape High Court, which was denied due to the case not falling under the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE).

Subsequently, the property company appealed the decision to the SCA, arguing that PIE should not be applicable since student residences do not serve as the students’ permanent homes. The students come from their own homes to attend university, and eviction would not render them homeless, as they would have alternative housing options.

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Although all occupants have since vacated the premises, the parties involved agreed that the matter should be resolved legally due to the recurring controversy surrounding accommodation at CPUT.

Judgement

In its judgment, the SCA clarified that PIE aligns with Section 26 of the Constitution, which prohibits eviction from homes without a court order after considering all relevant circumstances. The court recognised that while PIE typically applies to the occupation of land, its purpose also extends to preventing homelessness.

The judges further explained that since student accommodation does not serve as the students’ primary homes and does not replace their original residences, PIE does not apply in this context. The court found that unless proven otherwise, student housing does not displace or replace the students’ existing homes.