All landowners, including farmers and owners of lifestyle properties, who live outside urban areas, are subject to the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA). Therefore, all employees, including farm workers and domestics, who reside on these properties, are afforded the protection of ESTA. Thus, those employees who are accommodated on the property may not be evicted from the property without a court order.
It is imperative, therefore, that employers/landowners have the following in place:
1. Contracts that will protect them, such as accommodation contracts. These contracts set out clearly who may reside in the accommodation provided on the property and the rules that the employees have to adhere to as part of their right to reside in the accommodation. This contract is linked to employment to ensure that any failure on the part of the employee to adhere to these rules will result in their employment being terminated.
2. Systems for accommodation to ensure that only employees reside on the property. The relationship between an employer and an employee should, as far as possible, be one of employment only. Therefore, on termination of employment, the employee will have no reason to remain on the farm and be incentivised to move to their own accommodation. We advise that savings agreements be put in place to provide financially for employees to find suitable alternative accommodation on termination of employment.
3. Controls/inspections to prevent a common mistake that many landowners make, failing to ensure that the employees adhere to the accommodation rules. Common problems are among others:
- People moving in permanently without authority;
- Visitors without authority;
- Employees increasing their livestock without authority; and
- Building without authority.
To ensure proper control, inspections must be conducted regularly, preferably by a third party such as a security company, which must be instructed to do so neutrally and clinically so as not to cause problems where there are none.