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landlord and occupier rights Archives | Eviction Lawyers South Africa

City of Cape Town considers evicting people ‘illegally’ occupying abandoned hospital

By | Eviction news, Evictions

Reprinted from News24, by Marvin Charles – 2021-02-05

Reclaim the City woodstock Chapter leader Karen He

Reclaim the City woodstock Chapter leader Karen Hendricks.
Marvin Charles
  • Reclaim the City organisers describe the City of Cape Town’s possible hospital eviction as “completely inappropriate”. 
  • The City is fast-tracking plans to develop social housing at the Woodstock Hospital.
  • The hospital was occupied in March 2017 and, since the occupation, the number of residents has increased.

Occupiers of the now defunct Woodstock Hospital are on edge as the City of Cape Town considers the possibility of eviction, subject to lockdown regulations.

According to the City, the illegal occupation has seen an increase in by-law contraventions, which has forced it to beef up law enforcement at a cost of R400 000 per month.

The hospital is no longer in use, and residents had previously appealed to the City to allow them to use it as housing.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said: “There are no circumstances under which land invasion can be condoned. The entire public housing programme hinges on protecting land from invasion, with projects worth R1.3 billion currently under threat.

“The City goes to great lengths, at great cost, to protect land and cannot afford to have groupings in society who promote land invasions.

“All role-players must actively discourage attempts to illegally occupy land. We owe this not only to ourselves as residents of a growing city, but also to future generations who will require land for schools, hospitals, housing, transport infrastructure and community facilities.”

Booi said over 700 planned social housing units are in jeopardy at the hospital, if social housing law group Ndifuna Ukwazi “enabled” occupants to refuse to vacate the premises.

In October 2018, the Western Cape High Court granted an order interdicting and restraining Reclaim the City from “inciting persons to enter or be upon the property for the purpose of unlawfully occupying or invading”.

The City said the occupants are in contempt of the order and the number of occupiers has increased substantially. This is coupled with reports of criminality, rent extortion rackets, violence and mob activity, to the detriment of the surrounding community.

Mayor Dan Plato said:

“The toxic legacy of Ndifuna Ukwazi’s organised land invasions is the biggest obstacle to social housing on well-located sites in central Cape Town, stalling development of both the City-owned Woodstock Hospital site and the Helen Bowden property near the V&A Waterfront, owned by the Western Cape Government (WCG).”

The hospital was occupied in March 2017 and, since the occupation, the number of residents has increased. The occupation was organised by Reclaim the City, who renamed the hospital “Cissie Gool House”.

Earlier this week, the City said it was fast-tracking its plans to develop social housing at the hospital and was approaching the court to order a survey of illegal occupants.

The survey would assist in helping it to ascertain the number of illegal occupants on the premises, their identities, monthly income, and their eligibility for state-subsidised housing.

Reclaim the City Woodstock Chapter Leader, Karen Hendricks, said: “The City’s attempts at evicting the families in the middle of the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is completely inappropriate.

“To make matters worse, the City has not engaged with the families living in these occupations in any meaningful way – as it is obliged to do before resorting to eviction proceedings. The law relating to evictions is clear: The City is constitutionally required to engage with us about how it could circumvent an eviction that would place many of us at risk of becoming homeless.”

Reclaim the City said: “Rather than preventing social housing from being delivered, we have been calling on the City and the province to develop social and affordable housing on well-located public land in the central City for years.

“However, the City has continued to resist these claims. We have protested the City’s policy of evicting and displacing poor and working class families to the outskirts of the city. We have raised awareness of the City’s anti-poor policies and attitudes.”

Links added by SD Law

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or want to know the cost of eviction.

Further reading:

Landlords likely to have stricter credit and rental checks after Covid-19 financial impact

By | COVID 19, Lease Agreement, Rental deposit
Rental market likely to see stricter credit checks

Landlords are advised to use their judgement and approach each situation on a case-by-case basis. (iStock)

Reprinted from Fin24, by Carin Smith – 2021-01-11

  • Most South Africans rent the property where they stay
  • Many are now also without jobs or have experienced a drastic reduction in income due to the pandemic
  • Landlords are likely to apply increasingly strict credit and rental record checks

South Africa’s rental market is likely to show only very minimal growth – if any – due to the current combination of high vacancy rates and economic pressures on tenants, according to Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

In his view, most landlords and rental agents are likely to apply increasingly strict credit and rental record checks. Deposit requirements are also likely to rise.

“A very large number of quality tenants have become home buyers in 2020 due to the lower interest rates, and on top of that landlords have had to contend with extensive non-payment issues due to the economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, so they are already very cautious when it come to new tenants,” says Kotzé.

“And unfortunately, a large number of those who are likely to be looking for rental properties now are people who already have some financial problems. So, there will be a need to be even more careful.”

Alternatively, says Kotzé, many rental property owners will probably just decide to sell off their portfolios now, so astute investors who have the means to buy quickly should look out for the “bargain” flats and townhouses that will come on to their local markets as a result.

Grant Smee of Only Realty says even in the best circumstances, securing reliable tenants is tricky, but the pandemic has added an extra layer of complexity into the mix.

He says data shows most South Africans rent rather than own the property where they stay. Many are now without jobs or have experienced a drastic reduction in income, leaving them suddenly unable to afford rent.

“This shift gives rise to a situation in which tenants hold more power than before and has led to an increase in short-term rental agreements being signed. In addition, tenants are calling the shots in terms of deposit amounts and various other conditions which leave landlords feeling vulnerable,” says Smee.

Recent statistics from the Tenant Profile Network (TPN) indicate that 60.74% of tenants paid their rent on time during the last quarter of 2020, while 9% of all tenants are not paying rent at all. “Long-term rentals provide financial security for landlords, and in the past agreements were generally set up to protect the interests of both parties equally.

However, today, tenants may have more say in compromises when it comes to issues such as deposit payments too.

“In a market with excess rental stock, landlords may be more amenable to reduced deposits and short-term rentals in order to stand out from the crowd,” says Smee.

“Landlords looking to take advantage of the demand for the short-term letting market, need to ensure their property provides excellent value and a unique offering. Here factors such as location, price, quality and overall experience can ensure that they stand out from other competing units.”

Challenges for Landlords

Smee says landlords were largely unprepared for tenants being unable to pay during lockdown, leaving many of them without access to an open line of credit. Very few landlords have rent default insurance and payment holidays are now up.

“While tenants are certainly more able to demand compromise, and landlords are beholden to new pressures such as short-term rental agreements, it’s unlikely that tenants will be able to ‘strongarm’ landlords into drastically one-sided agreements,” says Smee.

Landlords are still considered to hold most of the negotiating power and retain the ability to write terms and conditions into leases which are favourable to them. On the other hand, landlords feeling the pressure to retain good tenants or adjust to the difficult current market may see fit to compromise and offer lower deposits and short-term rental agreements to remain competitive.”

Smee suggests that the current situation in the rental market requires agreeing on a middle ground, where both parties consider the other’s circumstances. This could include tenants paying an available rent, and landlords being more flexible by offering short-term rentals, deposit utilisation or rental deferment.  Landlords are advised to use their judgement and approach each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Links added by SD Law

Do you have questions about your lease agreement or rental deposit?

Whether you are tenant or landlord, if you have questions or concerns about your existing lease agreement or security deposit, contact Cape Town law firm SD Law for a confidential discussion. We will explain your rights and responsibilities to ensure a worry-free tenancy. Contact Simon now on 086 099 5146 or email him on info@sdlaw.co.za.

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‘Charming couple’ turn out to be the tenants from hell

By | Eviction news, Evictions, Rental Housing Act

Reprinted from Times Live, by Bobby Jordan – 2020-12-13

This house in Lochner Road, Constantia, in Cape Town has been taken over by hijackers. Attempts to get the illegal tenants evicted have been unsuccessful.

This house in Lochner Road, Constantia, in Cape Town has been taken over by hijackers. Attempts to get the illegal tenants evicted have been unsuccessful. Image: Esa Alexander

 

Catherine Deare thought she’d found the ideal tenants — a charming couple, full of smiles. Then they stopped paying rent, wouldn’t move out, and began making home improvements.

Two years after the couple moved into the R5m house in Constantia, Cape Town, Deare was forced to sell the property for less than half its value. She still owes the bank millions and is bankrupt.

Now the new owner has inherited the problem. The house and its leafy 937m² plot remain “hijacked”, by a new set of uninvited guests, several of them noisy and aggressive towards neighbours.

Earlier this month, police arrested one of them, allegedly for business robbery. But still the property goes from bad to worse, a blot in a suburb of wealthy homes.

The bond never materialised. Deare became embroiled in a standoff involving lawyers, police, private security guards and the Cape Town high court.

Her tenants obtained a court order against her for not returning their deposit, even though they had an unpaid utilities bill for twice the amount and had allegedly damaged the house.

She confronted them on the property to demand the keys, but a group of “threatening looking” people arrived in a flashy car and demanded she produce the deposit. “I thought I was going to be shot,” she said.

Faced with a lengthy court eviction battle, Deare said she had to concede defeat. “I eventually ran out of money.”

The house was given back to the bank and sold for R1.9m to a property investment company, which, a year later, is still battling to evict the tenants. The company’s lawyer, Wayne Hufkie, this week said there had been delays in obtaining a court order because the occupants refuse to be served a summons.

The sheriff broke down the fence to serve documents and the matter is to be heard in court next month.

“We’ve sent the sheriff out there two or three times,” said Hufkie. “To evict anybody you must have a court order. But in this matter, each time the occupancy keeps changing.”

The City of Cape Town problem building unit can’t get into the house. The “illegal occupants” refused officials entry to inspect, said the council’s head of safety and security Richard Bosman.

The city council has about 500 problem buildings, of which between 30% and 40% are illegally occupied.

There was no reply when the Sunday Times visited the Constantia property in Lochner Road.

The lawn was overgrown and an abandoned shopping trolley lay in the garden.

Neighbours said they had noticed “trolley squatters” who went on forays into the neighbourhood.

One neighbour criticised the council’s inaction: “How does the city justify the affected neighbours being charged full rates when everyone knows we will not get a market-related price with a hijacked property next door?”

Documents seen by the Sunday Times include an unpaid utilities bill for of R55,375 and e-mails from the illegal tenants, who could not be reached.

Property sources said house hijackers were exploiting the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act, which protects vulnerable families.

Links added by SD Law

If you need help with illegal tenants

This is an extreme case and, thankfully, rare. While rental housing legislation provides ample protection for tenants, to ensure the abuses of the past cannot be repeated, this article demonstrates that property owners also are entitled to the enjoyment of their property, and should not have their rights abused in this manner. We hope that the City of Cape Town can resolve this unpleasant situation swiftly.

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a specialist law firm in Cape Town of eviction lawyers, now also operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 0860995146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you have concerns about your tenant/landlord relationship.

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