Agency disappears on clients

2015-01-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG residents who paid a subscription to view rental listings from Compu-Homes have cried foul ­after they were left with no information and no one to complain to.

An angry reader called The Witness to say she had paid R230 for a subscription to Compu-Homes but had not received any listings.

She was looking for rental property in the city and was hoping to view property listings from the agency so she could choose from a variety of rental homes.

The woman, who asked not to be named, was looking for a three-bedroomed house in Chase Valley or ­Montrose.

“I visited the Compu-Homes website to subscribe so I could view listings of available properties. The website directed me to pay R230 at Standard Bank or their offices on 232 Boom Street in order to subscribe to three months and receive all their property listings,” she said.

After she deposited the amount, a message came through to her phone to confirm the payment but she still couldn’t view the listings on the website.

“I got worried and decided to phone the numbers on their website to query this problem but one of the numbers diverted to another company and the other was on voicemail. I even tried visiting their offices in Boom Street but the company was no longer located there.”

The Witness verified that the 033 345 2020 number was unavailable and 086 722 7191 is now used by a printing company.

An agency that previously dealt with Compu-Homes said another woman had phoned their agency for help.

They said the “misunderstanding” by Compu-Homes was giving rental businesses a bad name and warned people to double check agencies’ registrations with the Estate Agency Affairs Board.

The Estate Agency Affairs Board said Compu-Homes was not registered with them.

Standard Bank spokesperson Sihle Bolani said the Compu-Homes account still existed but the account holder wasn’t keeping an eye on the account since the business was shut down. “All the money into the account will be retrieved and traced back to the owners.”

When approached for comment, Ashleigh van Wyk, who was the owner of Compu-Homes, asked The Witness repeatedly not to run the story or mention her name in the article.

Her attorney Siva Chetty later also called The Witness to say his client had asked that her name not be used. He later issued a statement saying, “My client denies that it was ever her intention to misrepresent to the public or for that matter defraud them of their monies. As discussed, due to certain unforeseen personal circumstances she did not actively manage the site for approximately six months. My client unequivocally accepts that this was an omission on her part and she has since discontinued the website. I am instructed to advise that all those that have paid monies into the bank account will receive a full refund and arrangement with her bankers have already been made in this regard.”

Police said no cases had been opened in regards to Compu-Homes.

• siso.naile@witness.co.za

Subscribers who learnt the hard way responded on social media late last year commenting on their service and warning new subscribers about the “scam”.

In July last year Nonhla commented: “I’ve been calling them since yesterday [July 2, 2014] and no one seems to be answering their phone and their website is down. Not impressed at all.”

And in October 7 Shaun said: “Please all beware, this company is … no longer in operation. Please do not send them money. I transferred money as per the instructions and you can’t get hold of anyone. The website is still operational, and the money you transfer is obviously going to someone’s account.”

In the investigation, The Witness contacted other businesses using the same title to trace other branches of Compu-Homes across the country.

Compu-Homes SA (Pty) Ltd in Cape Town denied any links to Compu-Homes in Pietermaritzburg. The technical director, Ralf Ketzer, said: “Compu-Homes Pietermaritzburg has absolutely no links to Compu-Homes SA (Pty) Ltd. Since they were active in an unrelated field we gave them permission to use the name ‘Compu-Homes’ in Pietermaritzburg around 2002, nothing more. They are Compu-Homes, we are Compu-Homes SA (Pty) Ltd – a registered company with legitimate contact details.”

Previous Compu-Homes owner Caryn Botha said she sold Compu-Homes to Ashleigh van Wyk three years ago. “This is really sad for me to hear,” she said.

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