What are your rights?

Your right to adequate housing is protected in s. 26 of the Constitution. Adequate housing is more than having a roof over your head. Depending on your circumstances, housing should include things like:

  • access to water, sanitation and electricity or alternate energy
  • a clean and healthy environment
  • accessible roads and transportation
  • access to health care, schools, jobs and other community services.

Government’s duties

Provincial and national government have the main responsibility for ensuring that everyone has access to adequate housing. But local government is involved in housing in three ways:

  • As a development planner for housing.
  • As an owner of government land.
  • As a provider of services.

In March 2011, six Metropolitan municipalities and two district municipalities received “level two accreditation”, which means that these municipalities now also have the power to approve and manage housing construction programmes and ensure technical quality assurance. The powers of local government to administer housing programmes and deal with housing subsidies will increase as more municipalities get accredited to higher levels.
The government has a special obligation to protect the interests of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities, children, elderly persons and single mothers.

If your rights are violated...

S. 26(3) of the Constitution states that no one can be evicted from their home or have their home demolished without a court order. This means that government, including local municipalities, and private landlords, must act fairly before they can force you to leave your home.
Before the government or a private landlord (or the police or the private security company they employ) can demolish your shack, evict you, or take you to court they must:

  • talk to as many people who are affected as possible, and make a special effort to reach out to poor people that might be made homeless by the eviction or demolition
  • approach affected people to discuss their plans and look for ways to resolve the problem so that everyone is satisfied.

If government wants to discuss evicting you, some of these suggestions might be useful.

  • If the government says it is concerned with the safety or public health situation of your home, you can request them to improve or upgrade your home or the informal settlement or community while you live there.
  • You can ask the government to find or provide suitable alternative accommodation.
  • If you agree to relocate, you should find out about the following before you agree to move:
    • Where is the land?
    • What housing is available and what permanent housing is going to be made available?
    • Are members of your community registered to receive this new housing?
    • When will this housing be available? What services are available?
    • Are there clinics, schools and economic opportunities nearby, and what transport services are available?